Skip to main content

Full text of "Mrs. Humphry Ward"

See other formats


WRITERS OF THE DAY 



GENERAL EDITOR: BERTRAM CHRISTIAN 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



By STEPHEN QWYNN 

ROBERT EMMETT: A Historical Romance 
THE GLADE IN THE FOREST 
FAIR HILLS OF IRELAND 
CHARLOTTE GRACE O'BRIEN 
HOLIDAY IN CONNEMARA 
MEMORIALS OF EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY 

PAINTERS 
STORIES FROM IRISH HISTORY 




Barnett 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



MRS HUMPHRY 
WARD 



By 

STEPHEN GWYNN 





Xon&on 
NISBET & GO. LTD. 

22 BERNERS STREET, W. 



PR. 
57/7 



First Published in 79/7 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



I. INTRODUCTORY 7 

II. ROBERT ELSMERE . . . . .17 

III. NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD . 35 

IV. HELBECK OF BANNISDALE AND ELEANOR . 61 
V. NOVELS WITH A HISTORICAL BASIS . 83 

VI. THE CASE OF RICHARD MEYNELL . . 98 

VII. LATER NOVELS AND GENERAL APPRE- 
CIATION 103 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 121 

AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY . . .123 
INDEX 125 



INTBODUCTOBY 

IT would be unfair and uncritical to say 
that the most remarkable point about 
Mrs Humphry Ward as a writer is 
the circulation of her books. What is true, 
what ought to be said at once, is that without 
her popular vogue the attention of artists 
would scarcely have been attracted to her 
work. Such a success as she has achieved 
and consolidated does not dictate to critical 
opinion, but it compels appraisement to be 
made. Note has to be taken of the fact that 
Mrs Ward has interested persons of high 
intellectual distinction, from Mr Gladstone 
downwards ; that she has done so by writ- 
ings that have no pretension to humour or 
to wit, writings which, in so far as they are 
love stories, lack almost entirely the quality 
of suggesting passion ; writings, too, in which 
the most sympathetic reader must find 
7 



MES HUMPHEY WAED 

many dull pages. It has to be noted, in 
short, that she has succeeded with all the 
odds against her. If, as I think, criticism 
has so far turned aside from the task of 
estimating her rank, that is because Mrs 
Ward created her position by a book whose 
popularity rested on qualities apart from its 
literary merits. Robert Elsmere was con- 
sidered less as a novel than as the vehicle for 
popularising a certain range of ideas, and for 
that reason critical opinion which is some- 
what unduly specialised refused to consider 
it seriously either as a novel or as a piece 
of theological controversy. It neglected to 
consider how far its unquestioned success 
was a success of literary art. 

I am speaking now of that critical opinion 
which is responsive and responsible only to 
the craft itself which, in fact, very largely 
reflects the craft's own judgment and 
which is always a little prejudiced against 
the successful artist by certain aspects of 
popularity. The admiration of those who, 
admiring Mrs Ward, admired also Miss 
Corelli, was in this respect a detrimental 
8 



INTRODUCTION 



asset. Yet, it may be replied, if Mrs Ward 
can interest fashionable ladies and other not 
very intellectual people in things of the 
mind (as undoubtedly she has done), that is 
matter for praise : unless her methods can 
be shown to be illegitimate, unless she has 
vulgarised and mutilated the thing which 
she delineates, to bring it down to facile 
comprehension. I do not think such a 
charge could be sustained for a moment. 
Highly trained, indefatigably industrious, 
her work proves her to be and not only 
that, but fair in her presentment of those 
attitudes of mind which are not her own. 
The devil's advocate before the tribunal of 
art would be obliged, I think, to limit him- 
self to this indictment : that she is a publicist 
rather than an artist : or at least that her 
success was the success of a publicist rather 
than of an artist, and that even with develop- 
ing artistic power she has never learnt to 
subordinate thoroughly the accidental to 
the essential interests of her craft. It is 
possible to represent her books as only 
one or two degrees removed from that 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



ungenial thing, the " symposium " in a 
review. 

People talk of such and such a person 
having " had no advantages." Mrs Ward 
has had too many " advantages " ; they 
stand in her way. There is something of 
the child in every artist, and it is hard to 
find in most of Mrs Ward's books. When 
you find it, she is unconsciously creative- 
working in a wholly different mood. Every 
page that she writes of the north country 
(where we know that she was bred, and if 
we did not know we could infer it) tells 
simply of life lived. She is part of what 
she writes about, is one with it. Every- 
where else we are conscious of experience 
deliberately pursued, of scenes and environ- 
ments intelligently depicted, but no more. 
She can describe to us the society in which 
most of her working life has presumably been 
passed: she cannot make it live. 

Herein she shows inferior to so true yet so 

pedestrian an artist as Trollope. Trollope 

made Barchester made it out of his own 

consciousness, somehow obscurely informed. 

10 



INTRODUCTION 



It lives, it is all of a piece, it has an atmos- 
phere which conveys itself: he does not 
need to describe. Or take a closer parallel. 
Trollope was probably never in so close 
touch with politicians as Mrs Ward has been, 
yet his novels of parliamentary life, far less 
technical than hers in their method, far less 
shoppy (if one may be permitted the phrase), 
nevertheless catch, as hers do not, the 
spirit of the institution as we know it to-day, 
despite the passage of nearly two genera- 
tions and far-reaching change. The differ- 
ence is that Trollope is interested primarily 
in men and women, in the rough lump of 
humanity ; Mrs Ward is preoccupied with 
special types, with their ideas, and their 
setting, social or historic. 

In one sense Mrs Ward has a better right 
than most novelists to be named with 
Trollope. Her survival is assured, like his, 
for the purposes of history. The historian 
seeking to construct a picture of the last 
hundred years will find his best resource 
(far better than the newspapers can afford) 
in certain novelists, persons of normal mind : 
11 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



such pre-eminently was Trollope. Take, 
for example, one of his least known works, 
The MacDermots of Ballydoran: it is like 
the report of the Devon Commission drama- 
tised and focused upon a particular locality. 
He saw Ireland with the mind of a jury. 
And if a Royal Commission had been in- 
stituted to report upon the life of the country 
clergy and the more devout among their 
well-to-do parishioners, who can doubt but 
that the evidence and the findings would 
have left an impression which could be well 
summed up in the novels of Miss Yonge ? 
These two artists (no candid mind can deny 
that title to Miss Yonge) presented the mode 
of middle-class living in their day, in a way 
that will help the historian to whom 
Stevenson or Meredith will be of singularly 
little service. Mrs Ward also will go down 
to posterity as the writer who has known 
how to dramatise in an interesting fashion, 
not so much the life as the intellectual 
tendencies of her own generation. The 
historian will turn to her to understand not 
what people were like, what they did, what 
12 



INTRODUCTION 



they did not do, how they judged of conduct, 
but rather (in an age much marked by 
speculation) what they thought about. You 
will gather from Meredith what Meredith 
loved and laughed at, from Stevenson what 
Stevenson liked men to do or to be. But 
Mrs Ward dispassionately, or at least with 
scrupulous generosity, sets out for us the 
opinions current in her time upon high 
matters of general concern. 

The competence of her equipment is not 
to be disputed. Granddaughter to Arnold 
of Rugby, niece to Matthew Arnold, she was 
brought up in close touch with ruling powers 
both in the moral and in the intellectual 
sphere. She was one of a family in which 
every individual possessed the power and 
the inclination to write. Over and above 
this, her father, Professor T. Arnold, was 
among the men who felt the Oxford Move- 
ment at its strongest. He joined the Church 
of Rome, and, being a fine critic of literature, 
went with Newman to help in founding a 
Catholic University in Ireland. But his 
mind never reached a final poise on the 
13 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 

questions of faith which preoccupied him. 
Mrs Ward was reared in an atmosphere of 
intense spiritual unrest: theological con- 
troversy must have been in the air she 
breathed, and not alone in the air of her 
home. From 1865 to 1881 her abode was at 
Oxford. She came there a girl of fourteen, 
married there at the age of twenty-one, 
and lived there for nine years as a young 
married woman. During all this period, 
Jowett on one side, Liddon upon the other, 
were at the full tide of their influence. 
Behind these protagonists there were ap- 
paritions from time to time of Pusey on the 
side of authority, and, on the other, of Mark 
Pattison, reinforcing the armoury of de- 
structive criticism. Mrs Ward was a keen 
student of literature and of history at its 
sources, but the special bent of her mind 
showed itself in an early application to what 
she herself calls " the general literature of 
modern religion," and her first important 
publication was a translation of Amiel's 
Journal Intime the self-revelation of a 
religious soul in difficulties. 
H 



INTRODUCTION 



From these academic surroundings she 
removed to London. As the wife of a leader- 
writer and art critic on a great newspaper, 
she was in touch with the most prominent 
intellectual personages of the moment. 
More than that, in a period of violent 
political excitement, her uncle, W. E. 
Forster, was a veritable storm-centre ; her 
cousin, Arnold Forster, was entering, under 
the Irish Secretary's guidance, on a political 
career of high promise. In 1888 her own 
blazing success with Robert Elsmere made her 
a personage : it brought affluence as well. 
Thus throughout her career, keenly interested 
in all the vital movements of her time, she has 
been almost officially at the centre of things. 
Her contact with politics has been that 
of a minister or ex-minister; her contact 
with art, that of a Royal Academician; her 
contact with literature, that of an Oxford 
don. 

These things do not make a writer, but 

at least they ensured that if she wrote a 

novel about politics, or about art, or about 

theology, she was fully competent, say, to 

15 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



give University Extension lectures upon the 
subject with which she dealt. She had not 
been a parson in trouble about his faith, nor 
an active politician, nor an artist with his 
bread to earn; but she knew as much as 
books could tell her about the distinctive 
problem of each, and in each case she was 
personally well acquainted with distinguished 
living examples of the type she studied. 
Thus her work, produced at a period when 
people were strongly disposed to derive part 
of their culture from the more serious class 
of fiction, had a high educational value; 
she was both qualified and predisposed to 
instruct. Also, and this was essential to 
her success, she had as much of the true 
story-teller's gift as sufficed to win and hold 
her audience. 



16 



II 

RORERT ELSMERE 

AWEITEE'S early attempts are often 
instructive, and Mrs Ward's first 
novel showed all the superficial 
characteristics of her manner. To begin 
with, Miss Bretherton had the attribute of 
associating itself inevitably with an actual 
personage in that case a living actress, Miss 
Mary Anderson. Mrs Ward has always 
steadily insisted on the right to find in fact 
a starting-point for fiction, a suggestion 
which the artist may develop. In another 
respect the choice of subject was character- 
istic, since it admitted of being stated as an 
abstract intellectual formula. The book 
might have been written in answer to an 
examination question put somewhat thus : 
" If an actress of high ambition, but destitute 
of training, makes a dazzling success by 
sheer beauty, what is likely to be her 
B 17 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



evolution?' 1 And the answer given in 
Mrs Ward's thesis-novel reveals a third 
trait destined to mark all her work. Miss 
Bretherton owes the salvation of her artistic 
soul to the fact that she has come in touch 
with persons of what is sometimes called the 
highest culture. It is an obsession with 
Mrs Ward that there exists somewhere (at 
the top) a distinctive society, admission 
into which may be simply represented as an 
assay or proof of fitness (it is so in one of her 
later novels, Canadian Born), but is more 
commonly treated by her as a ripening and 
perfecting experience. In almost all her 
later books her characters either belong to 
this charmed circle or come within its outer 
ambit to be attracted or repulsed, accord- 
ing to the measure of their deserts. Her con- 
ception of this inner or upper society has no 
doubt been amplified and glorified since she 
wrote Miss Bretherton ; as distinguishing 
marks of its citizens, knowledge of the world, 
familiarity with power, have come to receive 
rather more emphasis than easy converse 
with the best in books; but, from first to 
18 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



last there is present to her mind a distinction, 
if not between the initiated and the un- 
initiated, at least between those capable and 
incapable of initiation. The young beauty 
is changed from a bad actress into a good 
one by making acquaintance with an Oxford 
don who writes. 

Still, in Mrs Ward's later work the moral 
effect of this contact is not put so crudely in 
terms of educational influence as in Miss 
Bretherton. In truth, the interesting thing 
about this first book is its lack of quality. 
It showed, one would have said, a deplor- 
able competence ability ta furnish out 
something that fitted all the orthodox 
formulae. A woman so well trained, who 
could write so well, had seen so many places 
and people, and yet who could give neither 
atmosphere nor life, seemed indeed a case to 
despair of. Yet within two years she had 
written Robert Elsmere, which beyond all 
doubt has life, and here and -there has 
atmosphere. 

Life it has, poignant life, in the central 
chapters which relate the actual struggle 
19 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



of Elsmere's choice, whether he shall or shall 
not renounce his orders. They culminate, 
when the choice has been made, in the story 
of slight incidents which render delay un- 
bearable to him, his quest of one man's 
fortifying sympathy and then the climax 
the avowal to his Puritan dale-bred wife. 
In that chapter and the next, which describe 
Catherine's frantic impulse of flight and her 
dazed penitent return, Mrs Ward reached 
a point which she has never surpassed, 
perhaps never again quite reached ; and this 
assuredly is no dispraise. She has not the 
gift that seems to burn away superfluous 
words till none is left but the essential 
utterance ; yet passion is there, the struggle, 
the strain, and out of passion the unspeak- 
able relief in reconciliation achieved. It is 
the only passion that she knows, the passion 
of souls perplexed between intellectual or 
moral faith and the drag of their humanity 
a passion singularly austere and unsensu- 
ous, with affinities to the landscape which 
is never far from this writer's mind. What 
there should be of coldness in those fells 
20 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



and becks and dales, I cannot tell; but 
Wordsworth's temper enshrines it, and Mrs 
Ward is of the same lineage. If she can 
understand Catherine, the woman of little 
reading, of convictions so set and limited 
that they narrow even her heart, it is because 
.Catherine embodies that austere spirit of the 
fells, Puritanism of the mountains and the 
glassy Westmoreland streams. Catherine, 
not Elsmere, is the true centre of the book : 
she is a life ; he is little more than a bundle 
of ideas, tendencies and attributes. Where 
he becomes vital, he catches life and signi- 
ficance from her. 

That is the atmosphere which I find in this 
book the atmosphere of one place, of one 
person only. Mrs Ward details with love 
and with knowledge all the charms of 
southern English landscape though here, 
as everywhere, she draws out too long her 
descriptive passages, and mars even the 
chapters of which I have spoken with an 
excessive elaboration of sights and sounds 
upon the heath where Elsmere paused before 
his fateful home-coming. If she does not 
21 



MES HUMPHEY WAED 



smother her northern landscapes, it is onty 
because the feeling behind them is too much 
alive. Much could be spared, no doubt, yet 
the superfluities, too, have the touch of 
inspiration. In the early chapters, which 
depict the life of Whindale, one perceives 
still the prentice hand. Mrs Ward strives 
after humour, a grace denied her, and the 
result is triviality ; but how wisely she learnt 
her lesson! I cannot recall in her later 
works any effort for a laugh. Her gift was 
so to impassion herself in following the 
struggles of a conscience that she could com- 
municate her own interest in an adventure 
half spiritual, half intellectual. That is 
where she is an artist. What matters to 
the artist is Catherine's grip on Eobert, 
Eobert's on Catherine the effort of two 
souls bound by mortal love to retain close 
touch of one another when their most vital 
beliefs run counter. But there is also the 
publicist to be reckoned with. The publicist 
is persistent to expound exactly what 
Elsmere believed, why he came to believe it, 
and what expression his belief found in 
22 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



action. All this appeals to a curiosity, or a 
faculty, which is not the faculty that art 
affects. If Mrs Ward had needed to expound 
Catherine as she expounds her husband, the 
book could never have lived. 

In other words, where Mrs Ward suc- 
ceeded best, where she was most truly 
creative, most instinctive, and most an 
artist, was where she was least a propa- 
gandist. The creative gift was there, but 
not in higher measure than could be matched 
by half-a-dozen other women novelists of her 
generation. What distinguished her, what 
made her unique, what gave her a real im- 
portance, was the fact that she made this 
gift subserve the purposes of an intelligence 
deliberately bent to the task of moulding and 
directing contemporary thought. Her novel 
was in its germ a pamphlet a pamphlet 
written in answer to a sermon. Was there 
ever a more unlikely beginning for a vast 
popular success ? Eare qualities were needed 
for her task, and the first was a store of 
true knowledge. But knowledge of itself 
will not affect feeling, and without feeling 
23 



MES HUMPHEY WAED 



such a success is impossible. Emotion 
must be raised by emotion ; and there was 
passion in this book a noble passion for 
freedom of the mind, a zeal for the rights of 
knowledge. The history of its genesis, which 
has been told by herself in the introduction 
prefixed to the first volume of the "West- 
moreland Edition" of her collected novels, 
deserves to be reproduced. 

To use her own words, Mrs Ward, in the 
first nine years of her married life, " got 
through a good deal of reading and writing 
of a rather various kind, concerned now with 
English, now with French, now with Spanish 
literature." The modesty of this statement 
is revealed by the fact that in 1879 Dr Wace, 
seeking for contributors to the Dictionary 
of Christian Biography, applied to this quite 
young woman for articles dealing with " the 
West Goths and Spanish Christianity gener- 
ally up to 800 A.D." This application was 
suggested by " some articles on Spanish 
chronicles" already contributed by her to 
The Saturday Review. Of the task to which 
Dr Wace thus set her, she says : 
24 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



" The two years of labour among the docu- 
ments of the early Spanish Church and the 
West Gothic kingdom, aided at every step 
by German criticism and research, were the 
determining years of my life. Practically 
I have described them and their effect on the 
mind in Robert Elsmere. Elsmere, setting 
himself to work on the origins of modern 
France, is confronted with the fact that 
contemporary record is coloured by the 
personal bias and training of the recorder, 
and that this bias and training is a leading 
part of the circumstances of the time. 

" The astonishment awakened in Elsmere, 
as his task develops, by those strange pro- 
cesses of mind current in the histories of 
certain periods, processes which are often 
more interesting and illuminating than the 
facts which the historians are trying to relate, 
was in truth my own astonishment. After 
some fourteen years spent at Oxford in a 
more or less continuous, though always 
desultory, study of English poetry, French 
belles lettres and what one may call the 
general literature of modern religion, the 
Ada of Spanish Councils and the chronicles 
and hagiography of the West Gothic King- 
dom produced in me, beside the immediate 
25 



MES HUMPHRY WARD 



historical result, a kind of far-reaching stir 
and rumination, if one may so put it, which 
gradually affected the whole mind. And 
it was this stir and rumination which, six 
years later, I endeavoured to reproduce in 
Robert Elsmere" 

Another element in her life which reflected 
itself in the book was the influence of Mark 
Pattison who, as she says, " was always 
interested in the young girl students of 
Oxford, tried to help them, and set a standard 
before them." It was an exacting standard 
of knowledge, of sustained and continuous 
endeavour of "Benedictine application," to 
borrow the phrase used concerning another 
of these brilliant disciples, Mark Pattison' s 
young wife, afterwards Lady Dilke. To 
the squire, who represents in Elsmere' s 
history the sapping force of criticism, Mrs 
Ward has admittedly given Pattison' s 
exterior traits, and has no doubt suggested 
the character of his intellectual attack. It. 
is curious and not a little ironical to reflect 
that the effects of the great scholar's long 
labour, so barren of direct results, may have 

26 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



been chiefly felt at second hand, transmitted 
through this casual discipleship, and that 
this acrid, domineering combatant, in so 
far as he conquered, may have conquered 
most through a woman. But this at least 
emerges as a certainty. Mrs Ward's two 
years of work, years," as she puts it, " of 
serious consecutive training, both in writing 
and thinking," strengthened in her the 
esprit de corps and gave her the sense of 
belonging to a regiment and the instinct of 
loyalty to its captains. The emotion which 
is felt throughout Robert Elsmere first found 
expression as a direct retort to the arraign- 
ment of those whom a Bampton Lecturer 
held responsible for " the present unsettle- 
ment in religion." From the University 
pulpit in St Mary's Church, Dr John Words- 
worth, then Fellow and Tutor of Brasenose 
College, afterwards Bishop of Salisbury, 
expounded, in 1881, his thesis that " Christ 
connects unbelief and sin," and specified 
among the sins to which unbelief was attri- 
butable, " indolence, coldness, recklessness, 
pride and avarice." 

27 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



" I remember," writes Mrs Ward, 

" gazing from the dim pews under the 
gallery where the Masters' wives sit, at the 
fine ascetic face of the preacher, with his 
strong likeness to his great-uncle, the poet 
of English pantheism, and seeing beside it 
and around it the forms of those, his 
colleagues and contemporaries, the patient 
scholars and thinkers of the Liberal host 
whom he was in truth, though not perhaps 
consciously, attacking. My heart burned 
within me, and it sprang into my mind that 
the only way to show England what was in 
truth going on in its midst was to try and 
express it concretely in terms of actual life 
and conduct. Who and what were the 
persons who had either provoked the present 
unsettlement of religion, or were suffering 
under its effects ? What was their history ? 
How had their thoughts and doubts come to 
be, and what was the effect of them on 
conduct?" 

So was born a book whose publication 
should undoubtedly be marked as an 
event though an event in quite another 
sense than, say, the publication of Richard 

28 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



FevereL Mrs Ward was perhaps providen- 
tially saved from forestalling her effect. In 
the heat of her offended loyalty she wrote a 
protesting pamphlet entitled Unbelief and 
Sin, in which she says: " I tried to sketch 
two types of character, A and B, the one 
carried by history and criticism into ' un- 
belief,' the other gradually stifling in him- 
self the instincts and power of the free mind." 
The Oxford bookseller who printed it- 
omitted to give any printer's name, and 
within a few hours a High Church opponent 
detected this fact, and pointed out that the 
omission made publication an illegal act. 
The pamphlet was withdrawn, but its writer's 
imagination did nob cease to work on the 
subject which was " always hovering in the 
mind." 

This long unconscious and half-conscious 
cerebration has perhaps preceded the birth 
of most good novels ; and it is perfectly 
compatible with other work. In these years 
Mrs Ward tried her hand with Miss 
Bretherton, but her translation of AmiePs 
Journal had a closer relation to the larger 
29 



MES HUMPHRY WARD 



theme, for, by her own account, many of 
AmiePs traits were diligently reproduced in 
Langham, Elsmere's sceptic friend. It may 
be noted, however, that Oxford of the 
eighties was more inclined to see in Langham 
some reproduction of the Balliol tutor, R. L. 
Nettleship, a delicate and subtle intelligence, 
strangely fenced about by shyness. But the 
captain of the Liberal host to whom Mrs 
Ward most openly proclaimed her devotion 
was T. H. Green, Professor of Moral Phil- 
osophy, whose published words are actually 
put into the mouth of Grey, Elsmere's 
monitor and comforter. Green died in 
1882, but his memory was still warmly 
cherished and the power of his influence 
still felt, when Mrs Ward began, in 1885, to 
write her book, placing some of her scenes 
in the landscape of that " beautiful wild 
land" about Hindhead in which, from 1882 
onwards, her summers had been spent. Not 
till the end of 1887 was it finished : it 
appeared at the close of February, 1888, and 
before April was over had reached a third 
edition. In May Mr Gladstone, then at the 
30 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



very zenith of his amazing prestige, reviewed 
it in The Nineteenth Century. The article 
was a compliment, all the more impressive 
because it went far beyond the old-world 
courtesy which was to be expected from the 
great veteran, when he spoke of a lady and 
an Arnold. His praise of her literary gift 
might lend itself to the observation that 
he commended specially a copiousness in 
which he himself was over-abundant : but 
none could dispute the authority with 
which he commended ' ' the sense of mission, 
the generous appreciation of what is morally 
good, impartially exhibited." Here was a 
noble quality, nobly praised by one who 
spoke with all the more weight because none 
more clearly recognised and condemned Mrs 
Ward's aim, which was, in Mr Gladstone's 
definition, :< to expel the preternatural 
element from Christianity, to destroy its 
dogmatic structure, and yet to keep intact 
the moral and spiritual results." In the 
long, controversial pages of the review the 
old Churchman set out to prove the impossi- 
bility of this ideal, and he attributed Mrs 
31 



MKS HUMPHRY WARD 



Ward's acceptance of the German critical 
conclusions to an imperfect study of the 
rebutting case made by such apologists as 
Westcott. 

Later in the year Dr Randall Davidson, 
then Dean of Windsor, now Archbishop of 
Canterbury, renewed the attack on Mrs 
Ward's intellectual preparation. Yet here 
again the adverse critic paid deferential 
homage, not to the book's success, but to its 
high merit, its power of commanding and 
sustaining interest. To these high disput- 
ants, and to the host of her controversial 
critics, Mrs Ward made answer indirectly. 
In some very charming pages of the West- 
moreland Edition, which recount her con- 
versations held with Mr Gladstone before 
his review was written, she admits that 
" feminine courage " quailed before the 
flashing eye and " deep, thunderous voice " 
which blew aside the " trumpery objections " 
of Renan and the Germans : nor did she, in 
her own person, so to say, stand up to him 
in print. But The Nineteenth Century of 
January, 1889, contained a " dialogue" by 
32 



ROBERT ELSMERE 



her entitled The New Reformation, in which 
a chosen spokesman uttered her mind as to 
Westcott and his fellow-champions. They 
demanded, she said, that criticism should 
apply itself in a special manner, with strong 
prepossessions, under the influence of 
" affection," to the records of Christianity's 
beginning. But unfettered modern thought 
demanded an equal vigilance, an impartial 
survey, over the whole religious field. 

Further than this it would be foreign to 
our purpose to follow Mrs Ward in contro- 
versy; but a word should be said as to 
the title of this expository dialogue, which 
she reprinted in her collected edition. 
" Reformation," in Mrs Ward's sense, as it 
operated in England, was not a schism 
from the Church : rather, it transformed the 
Church in reforming it. Devoted as she is 
to the English ideal of tradition reconciled 
with growth, this is evidently to her mind 
one of the glories of England's history. 
Robert Elsmere is a demand for a new mani- 
festation of the same English spirit: and 
more than that, she feels herself, in urging it, 
c 33 



MES HUMPHRY WARD 



to be the heir of her progenitor. " Arnold, 
the great leader whom the Liberals lost in 
'42 snatched from life at the height of 
bodily and spiritual vigour in the very 
birth-hour of the New Learning. . . . Arnold 
was a devoutly orthodox believer, but a 
Church of free men, coextensive with the 
nation, gathering into one fold every English- 
man, woman and child that was Arnold's 
dream." These words, taken from The 
Case of Richard Meynell, a book written by 
her more than twenty years later, describe 
the dream which inspired Arnold's grand- 
daughter in writing Robert Elsmere, and 
which has been the ruling principle alike 
of her Modernist Anglicanism and of her 
Anglican Imperialism. 



34 



Ill 

NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

JT^OBERT ELSMERE, Mrs Ward's 
AY se ond book, was published in her 
-*- ^ thirty-seventh year. It was to be ex- 
pected that with fully matured talent and ex- 
perience she 1 would become more of a novelist 
and less of an expositor. Yet The History 
of David Grieve , the book which followed 
Robert Elsmere, though separated from it by 
an interval of no less than four years, was 
scarcely less expository than its predecessor, 
and was so with less excuse. No dramatic 
conflict hinges on the question of David 
Grieve' s belief or unbelief: the merits of the 
story exist in spite of the author's attempt to 
show what a good man, spiritually minded, 
and with a brain capable and highly trained, 
will come to hold as his half-instinctive faith. 
The merits, however, are there, and they 
are so characteristic as to require some 
35 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



analysis, both of them and of the equally 
characteristic defects. 

We start with the somewhat arbitrary 
assumption of an abnormal marriage. A 
serious young dalesman, country bred, but 
seeking fortune in the town, where he develops 
into a highly skilled artisan, mates with a 
purely Latin type, the grisette from Provence 
adrift in London. Such a union would, 
naturally enough, produce a progeny with 
ill-balanced and inharmonious attributes ; 
and though in the first child, David Grieve, 
the uncongenial strains blend happily, the 
Arlesienne's second, and unwelcome, child 
is a freakish unkindly offspring. The two 
children, early deserted by their mother 
and orphaned of their father, come back for 
their upbringing to the dales, where the care 
of them falls to their father's brother, 
Reuben Grieve, and to his hard wife, Hannah. 
Here we touch life. The two children have 
wild blood in them, but in the boy it runs to 
profit: it gives him the touch of imagina- 
tion which animates his capable boldness. 
Yet with him Mrs Ward has to describe. 
36 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

She writes about him ; she explains him; she 
does, on the whole, succeed in making us 
understand. With the girl she has vision ; 
there is inspiration in that portrait, and from 
first to last Louie Grieve brings her atmos- 
phere with her whenever she enters on the 
scene. She is a living force, and the brain 
that conceived her was to that extent an 
artist's brain. The truth about Mrs Ward 
seems to be that she is intermittently an 
artist. She herself has taken account of 
the fact, though she does not state it pre- 
cisely in these terms. In the prefaces to 
the Westmoreland Edition of her works, 
which explain the circumstances in which 
each book came into being, and set down her 
later critical attitude towards it, she makes 
repeated allusion to a psychological experi- 
ence, which is well described in the Preface 
to Marcella : 

" Some of the work which, as I look back 
critically upon it, seems to me of my best 
which the public has welcomed most warmly 
has been written as it were intellectually, 
following out a logical sequence whether in 
37 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



character or event, under a conviction of 
necessity and truth, but without any over- 
powering vision. Imagination indeed placed 
and dressed the different scenes, conceiving 
them in a clear succession. But all through 
one knew how it was done, and felt that with 
proper concentration of mind it could be 
done again. But there are times and crises 
in imaginative work when this process seems 
to be quite superseded by another; and 
afterwards in looking back upon the results 
a writer will not know how it was done, and 
will not feel that it could be repeated. Some- 
thing intervened a tranced, absorbed state, 
in which the action of certain normal facul- 
ties seemed suspended in order that others 
might work with exceptional ease, like tools 
that elves had "sharpened in the^ night." 

Every writer of fiction with the least real 
gift for his trade recognises the experience 
of "scenes composed" (I quote now the 
admirable Preface to Sir George Tressady) 
" with the same imaginative rush, the 
strange sense of a waking dream, of a thing 
not invented but merely reported imposed 
as by a vision and breathlessly written down." 
38 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

This is the faculty of invention carried 
to such a power that the process seems 
automatic, like that calculating gift which 
enables certain human beings instantane- 
ously to see the result of long arithmetical 
combinations. But with the great artists 
the faculty is continuous and pervades 
equally the whole creation. With Mrs 
Ward it is patchy and discontinuous. Her 
work is at points laborious and imperfect, 
at others surprisingly vital. Moreover, 
even where the power of vision operates, the 
fact that there is real invention does not 
suffice ; the invention must interest and 
must impress. She herself cites, as one 
instance in which the mood of possession 
lasted continuously with her, The Story of. 
Bessie Costrett a tale rather than a novel, 
the sort of subject which Maupassant might 
have chosen. Told as Mrs Ward tells it, 
the thing seems true and real ; but it does 
not interest, it does not hold us. There is 
a mass of unnecessary detail; Maupassant 
would have got into ten pages what she 
spreads over a hundred, and, instead of 
39 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



wearying us with the commonness of the 
circumstance, would have made us feel that 
its very commonness was the essence of the 
tragedy. A far greater talent than Mrs 
Ward's is needed to make the commonplace 
poignant: her invention, when it is most 
effective, often has a touch of the bizarre, 
and the picture of Louie Grieve is a case in 
point. 

Still Mrs Ward can create Louie ; she can, 
at moments, make David live ; and by this 
creative gift she induces readers to swallow 
a deal of controversial stuff which has no 
artistic value whatever. She harnesses the 
artist in her to drag the plough of a dis- 
putant. It is like providing good church 
music to drag people in to hear a sermon ; 
and there is no mistake about this, the 
sermon is what Mrs Ward really cares for. 
But also there is no mistake that some of 
the music is first-rate. We have the artistic 
creation of Louie; we have the picture of 
Reuben and Hannah. This is a picture of 
dale folk, of the unloveliest forms of Puritan- 
ism, treated with a comprehension that has 
40 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

in it nothing cruel. Old Reuben, who so ill 
defended David and David's sister against 
the tyrannous Hannah, is lovable, and 
loved, through all his weakness ; and even 
for Hannah herself, the shrew, the oppressor, 
the defrauder in the name of God, Mrs Ward 
has at least respect. Hannah is of the dales ; 
her hardness is theirs, a thing needed to 
make up all that they stand for. 

Another gift of Mrs Ward shows itself 
first in David Grieve her remarkable power 
of creating mean feminine types. The young 
lady from a Manchester book-shop who sets 
her cap at David is excellently seen. But 
here again Mrs Ward sins against the light. 
She draws a nature in whom vulgarity is of 
the very grain; and yet we are asked to 
believe that because this little person has 
been taken to a big house, where her hu'sband 
is welcome, and has been treated by the 
ladies of the house with an icy rudeness, and 
has been consoled and taken home by her 
husband, she then and there purges her soul 
of vulgar ambitions and settles down, to be 
a suitable adoring and uninterfering help- 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



mate. The truth is, and Mrs Ward should 
have admitted it, Lucy was created to be a 
nuisance, and a nuisance she would have 
been, even when she was dying conveniently 
of cancer. 

Marcella is the first of the considerable 
series of novels whose interest is mainly 
political in which the fortunes of characters 
are bound up with a House of Commons 
career. Here we are concerned, not with 
theology, but with social ethics : and there 
should be noted also an increasing pursuit 
of vehement dramatic collision, or even of 
violent incident. The vexed question of 
game-preserving is one which constantly 
recurs in these books raising, as it does, in 
the acutest form, problems of the rights of 
property. But in Marcella it is more than 
an abstract question : it provides the central 
scene of the book. 

Moreover, it is a characteristic part of 
the new environment from which Mrs Ward 
now begins to draw her inspiration. Her 
residence from 1892 onward has been in 
Hertfordshire, amongst the Chiltern hangers 
42 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

and beech-woods ; she is surrounded by the 
rich setting of the home counties; she is 
fascinated with the old-world beauty of 
mansions with a long history; and, as she 
tells us, the neighbourhood in which she 
settled became almost at once the scene of 
a tragic affray between poachers and keepers 
of pheasants. New combinations began to 
take shape in the chamber of her invention ; 
also, new subjects demanded to be ventilated. 
Her readers were prepared as far back as 
1894 for Mr Lloyd George's famous budget 
and for the Unionist housing policy. It 
cannot be denied that Mrs Ward has been 
consistently a serviceable publicist. But in 
considering the artist, to me, at least, it 
appears that we have in these later books of 
hers one more illustration of the truth that 
imagination is thoroughly impregnated only 
in the early years of life : that the scenes of 
childhood are stamped there with a unity 
and completeness of which later and more 
self-conscious impressions have only the 
simulacrum. Reuben and Hannah grow, 
so to speak, out of the ground ; they suggest 
43 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



their setting, they cannot be separated from 
it. Mrs Ward's peasants of the home 
counties have not this property: they are 
people whom she has seen, whom she has 
visited, whom she has had good will to know ; 
but she has not grown up among them in 
that comradeship of childhood when dis- 
tinctions of class are really obliterated. 
What, indeed, she indicates with most truth 
is Marcella's inability to pass this invisible 
barrier. Except in pictures of the dales, 
there- is in her brain an eternal separateness 
between poor and rich, educated and un- 
educated. The peasants in her stories are 
little more than mechanical properties. 
Hurd murders, his wife weeps, to set in 
motion Marcella's intellectual and moral 
processes. Yet, for all that, the faculty of 
vision still is there, intermittent as always, 
not always to be counted on, but potent 
when the spell is felt. Of all unlikely things, 
Mrs Ward gives us an unforgettable picture 
of rabbit-netting on a moonlight night at 
the edge of one of the heavy copses that 
fringe those open bays of hill-side. It is not 
44 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WOEED 

done as a sportsman would have done it, 
say Charles Kingsley or some other in whom 
lived that odd mixture of the poacher and 
naturalist which breeds the taste alike for 
capture and for observation of wild creatures. 
But it is done with extraordinary vividness ; 
the smell, the feel of the wood-side, the sounds 
and the stillness, all are there. 

Also, in the main story, account must be 
taken of Mrs Ward's power to analyse the 
attraction of a woman for other women. 
Marcella's charm, her power to command, to 
dominate, even when she is disliked, among 
her own sex, are far better given than her 
effect on men. It is in this last respect, 
indeed, that the story fails. One may see 
the growth of Marcella's passion for Aldous 
Eaeburn : we know nothing at all about his 
feelings for her. Oddly enough, they are 
better given in the sequel to this novel, Sir 
George Tressady, which its author depreciates, 
but which some probably will find better 
reading than the original book. Marcella 
is the central figure of both ; she is un- 
doubtedly more likeable as a married woman ; 
45 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



and Mrs Ward has conveyed the sense of 
something rare and noble which is inspired 
by a union between two strong people who 
are equal comrades. She conveys also, with 
delicacy, if without amusement, something 
of the inconvenience which is inflicted on a 
politician by a too earnest and enthusiastic 
wife ; indeed, she indicates very plainly her 
characteristic opinion that a woman ought 
to be interested in " politics," ought to in- 
struct herself in their problems, ought to be 
capable of procuring information with which 
to assist her husband but had, on the whole, 
better keep out of direct political inter- 
vention. As for the secondary activities, 
exertion of influence and the like, the more 
attractive a woman is, the more sympathetic 
her nature, the likelier she is to bring about 
some damaging complication such as even 
Marcella did not escape from. The situation 
is planned out with a real knowledge of the 
world with a knowledge that has no 
cynical affectation. Marcella is no doubt 
an angel, but she is an interfering angel, and 
when she is drawn to persuade a political 
46 






NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

opponent, for her sake, to help her husband, 
there is a perfectly natural result. Marcella 
is none the worse, Sir George Tressady is 
none the worse, but Tressady' s wife is in 
serious danger of being driven to undertake 
reprehensible reprisals. 

Here again Mrs Ward's gift for dealing 
with mean women stands to her. Lady 
Tressady is a real addition to the portraiture 
of contemporary types; for the shrewish 
little doll is seen with humanity, and we are 
made to understand, if not sympathise with, 
the phases of her jealous rage. One scene 
in this book that where Marcella comes to 
apologise to and appease the woman whose 
husband she has unwittingly made captive 
is perhaps the best thing Mrs Ward has 
done : as a piece of technical mastery in the 
contrasting of two women's characters it 
was more difficult to achieve than the central 
chapters of Robert Elsmere. And if the 
novelist implies that Marcella strained com- 
passion almost to the limit of folly, it is only 
by way of reminding us that Lady Maxwell's 
married felicity (too sacred for Letty 
47 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



Tressady's ears) was of a piece with her 
fortune and her station in the world. Even 
here one cavils only at the novelist s implied 
comment: the dramatic movement of the 
scene, the truth of what the two women do 
and say, could hardly be bettered. 

Not less good than the picture of Sir 
George Tressady's wife is that of his mother. 
The feather-witted ex-beauty, ravaging her 
son's resources as she had ravaged his 
father's, is a genuine type. Mrs Ward has 
the power to present her. What she lacks is 
the power to do so with that clean, decisive 
touch which stamps the artist. Everywhere, 
in any given paragraph, in any given scene, 
one is conscious of redundancies. The 
medium in which she works has no charm- 
she plasters her effects. But she has the 
gift of characterisation and the gift for con- 
structing a story which upon the whole 
sustains interest and stands critical examina- 
tion with a reasonable measure of success. 

Her interest in following out the various 
types of intellectual revolt is not matched 
by any pursuit of the bewildering problems 

48 



NOVELS OF THE GENEEAL WORLD 

which sex presents. Certain conclusions 
are stated by her, and she is all on the side 
of orthodoxy. David Grieve becomes the 
lover of a Parisian art student. If he does 
not marry her, that is because she accepts 
only the union libre. She leaves him lest 
her art should suffer, and he has nothing to 
disturb his soul except a connection not 
legally sanctioned for at the time he is in- 
tellectually severed from all Christian belief. 
Yet Mrs Ward makes him aware of a hurt 
done to his deepest nature: he has a con- 
sciousness of sin. On the other hand, in one 
of her later books, Manisty, a dabbler in 
religion, is reported to have lived through a 
couple of passions in his past, but there is 
no suggestion that they have marked him 
or affected the quality of his relations to 
other women. David afterwards makes a 
marriage which is avowedly accepted as an 
example of the second best and a very poor 
second best; but Mrs Ward, as I have 
indicated, does not face the facts here. In 
Marcella and in Tressady she walks on tiptoe 
up to a difficulty and then retires. Suppose 
D 49 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



Marcella, instead of finding herself preserved 
for the virtuous Tory, had married the 
picturesque, deceiving Radical suppose 
Wharton had not, at the lucky moment, been 
found out! No doubt a novelist is not 
bound to tackle the problems which she 
adumbrates. But in Sir George Tressady 
the pieces are set. Tressady has married 
" with less thought than he would have 
given to the mating of an animal " and 
trouble has followed. It is too easy a way 
out to kill him, melodramatically, in the 
last chapter. Mrs Ward does not want to 
discuss what would have happened had he 
lived. There are plenty of novelists to take 
up this department of discussion, and we 
have no cause to complain. But in a writer 
who is so explicitly the holder of a didactic 
philosophy it is necessary to mark the 
limitation. 

The subjects which she treats with com- 
petent assurance are those proper to the 
platform and the lecture-room in the case 
of these two books, political speculations. 
Here we have a fancy picture of a Unionist 
50 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

Government introducing legislation of a 
socialist and collectivist character: risking 
its political life for the attempt to regulate 
drastically the conditions of labour. Con- 
sidering the book as a prophecy, the foreseen 
case has delayed to accomplish itself: but 
as a study of the rival points of view Mrs 
Ward's pages may well furnish good matter 
for readers not concerned with these things 
at first hand. She sees very clearly the 
perpetual struggle between irreconcilable 
points of view that which seeks to maintain 
individual freedom as the chief good, and 
that which seeks to regulate citizens by 
authority of superior and established know- 
ledge ; and she perceives shrewdly that the 
collectivist and authoritarian view has much 
to commend itself to the instincts of a trained 
governing class: in a word, that Tory 
Socialism is a very defensible combination. 
Yet here her speculative mind is operating 
in a vacuum. In Marcella her theme is 
better nourished with fact when she portrays 
the struggle between the theory which 
justifies landlords' power by pointing to their 
51 



MES HUMPHEY WAED 



prudent and philanthropic use of it, and, on 
the. other hand, those schemes which aim at 
giving to the rural worker a wider scope and 
a much enlarged right. 

Very wisely, Mrs Ward does not attempt to 
reach a solution; she sets out with tact the 
case for an enlightened Toryism; but she 
makes plain also the uncertainty and dis- 
quiet which harass many honourable minds 
with the question: Why should we have 
so much when those about us have so 
little ? 

Equally characteristic of her is to show 
lovingly how much they have. She delights 
in a well-ordered sumptuousness, and prob- 
ably not a few of her readers take a special 
pleasure in what she writes with gusto de- 
scriptions of stately abodes, the harmony of 
carpets and hangings, the evolutions of well- 
trained domestics, the presence of historic 
canvases on the wall, the accumulation of 
choice treasures in a hereditary home, itself 
a jewel, where generation after generation 
grows up, subconsciously cultured and per- 
fected by the mellowing influence of all this 
52 






NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 



distinguished environment. For an age 
exceedingly possessed by the taste for 
domestic decoration, a period in which con- 
noisseurship has become a ruling affecta- 
tion, such passages must have the attraction 
that Kingsley's excursions into trout-fishing 
or Lever's account of a fox-hunt have for a 
mass of readers. Here is a characteristic 
example : 

" He was ushered first into a stately outer 
drawing-room, filled with old French furni- 
ture and fine pictures ; then the butler 
lifted a velvet curtain, pronounced the 
visitor's name with a voice and emphasis 
as perfectly trained as the rest of him, and 
stood aside for George to enter. 

" He found himself on the threshold of a 
charming room looking west, and lit by some 
last beams of February sun. The pale- 
green walls were covered with a medley of 
prints and sketches. A large writing-table, 
untidily heaped with papers, stood con- 
spicuous on the blue self-coloured carpet, 
which over a great part of the floor was 
pleasantly void and bare. Flat earthenware 
pans, planted with hyacinths and narcissus, 
53 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



stood here and there, and filled the air with 
spring scents. Books ran round the lower 
walls, or lay piled wherever there was a 
space for them ; while about the fire at the 
further end was gathered a circle of chintz- 
covered chairs chairs of all shapes and 
sizes, meant for talking. The whole im- 
pression of the pretty, disorderly place, 
compared with the stately drawing-room 
behind it, was one of intimity and freedom ; 
the room made a friend of you as you 
entered." 

Such passages, apart from their artistic 
value, have an extrinsic interest the in- 
terest, so to say, of a guide-book to the 
domestic circles of the really great. Mrs 
Ward undoubtedly knows how people with 
fifty thousand a year and a great political 
position do, as a matter of fact, dress and 
house themselves : even the uninitiated feel 
that she can be trusted to give a faithful 
account of what passes in these exalted 
spheres ; and she is quite determined in her 
purpose of reproducing their splendour. The 
" best people " in her sense those who are 
54 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

privileged to enjoy this way of life value 
little less than their illustrious possessions 
(so she would seem to say) the presence 
among them of new and real merit. Personal 
distinction will admit a man, and possibly 
his dependents, to these charmed regions, 
and if he is of the elect he will find himself 
entirely at home there. He will recognise 
that the stewards of those excellences admit 
his right to participate ; and in that way the 
hereditary, trained, governing class will have 
gained by the reception of new blood. That, 
at least, is how I interpret her philosophy. 
The splendours are a trust: they are also, 
in practice, something of a touchstone or 
criterion : if a man looks all right when put 
alongside of them, the test is satisfactory. 
David Grieve, for instance, is accepted, and 
his wife no less clearly cast out. 

It is, in short, part of Mrs Ward's phil- 
osophy to set high value on a gathered, 
accumulated and transmitted culture, on 
what may be called the culture-producing 
plant, and she does not see clearly how this 
is to be obtained without the existence of 
55 



MRS HUMPHEY WARD 



privileged persons who shall be its hereditary 
custodians. 

One detects plainly enough the influence 
of Oxford. There beauty, the costly work 
of artists, enriched by a myriad associations, 
is made communally accessible, yet com- 
mitted to the charge of a selected order, for 
whom there is provided a decent and even a 
dignified way of living. Whether she knows 
it or not, Mrs Ward's conception of the inner 
governing world of Great Britain is that of 
another Oxford another aristocracy placed 
in surroundings which, of themselves, must 
impress and mould the mind. She is so 
much in love with ripe perfection that she 
cannot contemplate happily any group of 
people not so provided with the single 
exception of her dales' folk. With them she 
knows the life, she accepts its compensa- 
tions ; she sees it set in beauty, even at its 
bleakest. Apart from this, she is the novel- 
ist of the cultivated rich. An heirloom will 
attract her, even if it is a neglected heirloom ; 
but the society of decent villa residences 
is outside her ken. There are, it is true, 
56 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

certain persons in her books, like the Edward 
Hallin of Marcetta, who live penuriously, 
but they may be considered, for all practical 
purposes, as hermits, and they are hermits 
with a free foot in the superior dwell- 
ings, whether it be Oxford or in the larger 
world. 

It is true, and should be remembered, that 
Meredith was equally attracted by splendour, 
and could never have reconciled his spirit 
to the environments which W. D. Ho wells 
and Arnold Bennett (to pick two writers at 
a venture) tend to prefer. There are artists 
for whom the scene must be richly set. It 
is characteristic of Mrs Ward and of the time 
in which she writes that she should attach 
so much ethical importance to the setting 
and that in very characteristic cases she 
should half apologise for the existence of 
what she emphasises. Marcella and her 
husband would not feel quite happy about 
their houses in Brookshire and St James's 
Square if they did not also keep up an estab- 
lishment in the Mile End Road, where they 
spend several days a week quite happily with 

57 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



only five servants to look after them. The 
specified detail of their household is so typical 
as to be worth extracting. There are " two 
little workhouse girls" (Mrs Ward knows 
that no trained servant would consent to be 
employed by a rich peer in such surround- 
ings); a German charwoman to cook, whose 
nationality answers for it that there shall 
be no undue research about the dinners ; a 
village boy from Marcella's house in Brook- 
shire to give a friendly, patriarchal touch ; 
and, finally, " the ancient maid who had been 
Marcella's mother's maid," for personal 
service. When one knows all this, one really 
has a clear picture of the establishment; 
but it is completed by the description of 
Marcella, on days when her husband had to 
be away, going out " to meet him at the train 
in the evening like any small clerk's wife, to 
help him carry the books and papers with 
which he was generally laden, along the hot 
and dingy street, to make him tea from her 
little spirit-kettle, and then to hear the news 
of the day in the shade of the little sooty 
back garden, while the German charwoman 

58 



NOVELS OF THE GENERAL WORLD 

had her way with the dinner." Under 
these conditions one is quite content to learn 
that slumming " amused and delighted " 
the great lady. Only, if Tolstoi had been 
making a similar study, would he have left 
his great-hearted woman content to reconcile 
herself to the existence of slumdom by 
paying such ransom as this for the great house 
in Brookshire? But Mrs Ward is too 
thoroughly Anglican not to be imbued with 
the spirit of compromise : and that spirit, 
however excellent in a citizen, makes un- 
sympathetic literature. Even in the sphere 
of feeling which is most vital with her, the 
realm of religious emotion, she retains 
something of this quality. Here, and here 
only, her characters risk all to gain all ; yet 
the great sacrifices which she sets out for 
admiration are in a sense made to uphold 
the right of compromise. Elsmere ruins his 
position by the claim to accept so much as 
suits him of a prescribed system. Once, 
and only once, Mrs Ward has written a novel 
whose theme was the clash of religious ideals, 
and has written it without a propagandist 
59 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



purpose. The theme of that novel was 
the impossibility of compromise between 
irreconcilable faiths and in handling it 
Mrs Ward reached her highest achieve- 
ment. 



60 



IV 

HELBECK OF BANNISDALE 
AND ELEANOR 

T'TELBECK OF BANNISDALE was 

jj published in 1898, two years after 
* -* its predecessor, and ten after 
Robert Elsmere, to which it was the comple- 
mentary subject. The believing man finds 
himself at once drawn to and sundered from 
the unbelieving woman. Yet the collision 
is reduced to simpler terms. Helbeck, the 
Roman Catholic, with ages of tradition 
behind him, loves the girl who simply cannot 
believe can find no way to parley with that 
form of creed which is most averse to 
compromise, which knows no mean between 
acceptance and rejection ; and the inevitable 
end arrives. 

Already, indeed, in Sir George Tressady, 
Mrs Ward had shown an increased ability to 
weld her propaganda with her story to fuse 
61 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



the background of political speculation with 
the movement of her characters; and here 
she betters that example by her tact in the 
choice of grouping. Her own account of 
the matter deserves to be quoted at length. 
In it she tells how the story of an ancient 
Catholic house in Northern England had 
touched her imagination with its tale of 
privations and of slowly advancing beggary 
endured for the sake of faith. Yet in touch- 
ing her heart the story had challenged the 
modern in her mind : 

" Such constancy as had been shown in 
this long series of unknown or persecuted 
lives thrilled the heart. But what of those 
forces against which this Catholic family 
had so stoutly held its own? the main 
forces of our English civilisation ? What 
had they to say for themselves the life and 
thought of Protestantism and the free mind ? 
as against this silent, age-long defiance to 
which failure and misfortune had given a 
spell and a power so pathetic ? 

" Clearly there was romance, poetry, in 
this mere juxtaposition. Suppose the con- 
tending forces represented, at the present 
62 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

time, by two human beings a man and a 
woman ? There was the germ of ' truth 
embodied in a tale ' ! But how ? To make 
the woman the priestess of the past, while 
the man stood for modernity and the victori- 
ous to-day, would be easy and conven- 
tional. But if the woman were the modern 
representative of the critical, scientific 
mind ? Evidently she could not be so, 
argumentatively, intellectually. Under the 
primeval, universal laws of romance, in such 
a reading of the situation there would be 
neither story nor charm. For what is it 
indeed that conquers in life ? What was it 
that so gripped the mind in the story of this 
Catholic family ? Surely not their strength, 
but their weakness. If their Catholicism 
had been a triumphant, well-armed, argu- 
mentative Catholicism, like that which ex- 
communicates an Abbe Loisy, to us at least 
who were discussing their history it would 
have made no appeal whatever. It was 
their passivity, so to speak their lying at 
the mercy both of the militant, intriguing 
Catholicism which used and exploited them, 
and of the militant Protestantism whiph 
made them suffer it was this which touched 
us. 

63 



MBS HUMPHRY WARD 



" Suppose, therefore, in such a story as 
had begun already to shape itself from the 
mists, this triumphant weakness, this ' dying 
to live,' were given to the woman, who yet, 
as standing for modern civilisation, and the 
ideas on which it is built, would have in 
truth the strong and conquering role ? 
Suppose to her were assigned the same in- 
stinctive loyalty to something greater than 
herself, which she cannot expound or analyse, 
but which she feels, for which she can die, 
as that which made the tragedy and the 
greatness of the Catholic story ? Let her 
bear in her frail hands the torch of freedom 
and let her sink and perish under the 
weight of it ! Let her represent the same 
dumb clinging, a clinging of the heart to 
an idea ; place on her lips that same pitiful 
cry of tortured but inexorable loyalty that 
has given a terrible beauty to so many 
Catholic martyrdoms ; but let it be in the 
interest of that order of thought which is 
opposed to Catholicism in a life-and-death 
struggle. And let this dumb clinging rob 
her of life and joy, just as the older fidelity 
robbed its votaries of life and joy through 
generations. 

" Here, it seemed to me, was a fine subject. 
64 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

It began at once with heat and violence to 
clothe itself in detail. 

" The day after the conversation I have 
described I left the North for London. 
Through the long day in the train the story 
grew, threw out episodes and ramifications, 
became hour by hour an organic whole. By 
the time I arrived at Euston, I knew Helbeck 
and Laura. His dark head, and darkly 
handsome features, and behind them, iron 
will, and the ascetic temper, the lightly 
moving, elfish Laura, with the silent defiance 
in her grey eyes ; the passion which brought 
them together, and in the end destroyed 
them : these were plain to me the creatures, 
or elements, of a new and enthralling puppen 
theater of the mind." 

So came into existence a novel which it is 
a pleasure to praise without reserve. Mrs 
Ward here lays open her method : she plans 
the thing in terms of spiritual anatomy, 
and then proceeds to clothe them with flesh ; 
the book, for that reason, has some rigidity 
of- pattern but the characters come to life. 
Life there is not only in Helbeck and in 
Laura the girl bred in a university town 
E 65 



MES HUMPHEY WAED 



but in Laura's dale-folk cousins; above all, 
in the fanatical Calvinist woman that rules 
at Browhead Farm. What is more, the in- 
vention of the whole is good. Mrs Ward's 
passion for houses and furniture here lends 
her an inspiration in the conception of 
Helbeck dominated by family pride, yet 
selling away for charity his ancestral chairs 
and hangings, till there is left only his great 
Eomney which Laura begs him to spare, 
and which is finally sacrificed because he 
will not sell land for heretics to build a 
church on. 

There is a saying in this book, put char- 
acteristically into the mouth of a Cambridge 
professor, that the English universities need 
a Chair of " the Inner Life." What dis- 
tinguishes Mrs Ward from many contem- 
porary novelists is her close familiarity with 
the material, the literature, that such a 
Chair must handle. When she writes, in 
David Grieve, that after David's spiritual 
crisis inspired by a conviction of sin " the 
whole atmosphere and temperature of the 
soul " was changed, she writes a significant 

66 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

language. Not for nothing has she studied 
" all those treasures of spiritual experience 
which Catholicism has secreted for centuries." 
And she is qualified to interpret, even when 
she interprets only to deny. Strangely 
enough, she has riever drawn a man so well 
as in Helbeck this figure of a natural priest 
held away from his vocation, racked and torn 
through his very virtues. 

Here, too, is what I find nowhere else in 
this writer a true suggestion of passion 
both in man and woman passion, with its 
suddenness and abandonment, all the more 
violent because it comes almost as a purely 
spiritual force to natures essentially virginal : 
the passion in. which touch is already posses- 
sion. In truth, what Mrs Ward has painted 
is the passion of an ascetic : she does not 
succeed with the grosser clay of ordinary men. 

Beyond these excellences, there is in this 
book once more, and better seen than else- 
where, the spirit of that northern landscape ; 
it and its beauty and its bleakness pervade 
every scene ; and Laura, who comes back to 
it as to her cradle, belongs to the picture, 
67 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 

like one of its own daffodils. The fineness 
of the flower-harbouring grass is hers, and 
also the sunlit coldness of its rocks and 
streams. Helbeck, too, belongs to it. Mrs 
Ward has known well where to place that 
Puritanism of the Romanist : it belongs to 
her dales. Not in any other setting can I 
conceive of her writing in sympathy with an 
upholder of the fiercest resistance to modern 
ideas ; but Helbeck and his Bannisdale are 
one: she knows them as ancestral neigh- 
bours might. 

Her work cannot be better illustrated than 
by a passage, necessarily prolonged, which 
gives at once her interpretation of the 
northern background, of the girl's mood 
towards her strange lover, and of the in- 
stinctive revolt in Laura's mind which 
defines at once the nature of what in her 
insists on freedom and the quality of the 
invading pow r er: 

" One afternoon towards the end of Mr 
Williams' s visit, Laura was walking along a 
high field-path that overlooked the whole 
68 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

valley of the Flent. Helbeck had gone to 
meet the Bishop on some urgent business; 
but the name of his Catholic affairs was 
legion. 

" The weather, after long days of golden 
mist, of veiled and stealing lights on stream 
and fell, had turned to rain and tumult. 
This afternoon, indeed, the rain had made 
a sullen pause. It had drawn back for an 
hour or two from the drenched valleys, even 
from the high peaks that stood violet-black 
against a space of rainy light. Yet still the 
sky was full of anger. The clouds, dark and 
jagged, rushed across the marsh-lands before 
the north-west wind. And the colour of 
everything of the moss, the peaks, the 
nearer crags and fields was superbly rich 
and violent. The soaked woods of the park 
from which she had just emerged were almost 
black, and from their heart Laura could hear 
the river's swollen voice pursuing her as she 
walked. 

" There was something in the afternoon 
that reminded her of her earliest impressions 
of Bannisdale and its fell country of those 
rainy March winds that were blowing about 
her when she first alighted at the foot of the 
old tower. 

69 



ME8 HUMPHRY WARD 



The association made her tremble and 
catch her breath. It was not all joy oh ! 
far from it ! The sweet common rapture of 
common love was not hers. Instinctively 
she felt something in her own lot akin to 
the wilder and more tragic aspects of this 
mountain land, to which she had turned 
from the beginning with a daughter's 
yearning. 

" Had the differences between her and 
Helbeck been differences of opinion, they 
would have melted like morning dew. But 
they went far deeper. Helbeck, indeed, 
was in his full maturity. He had been 
trained by Jesuit teachers; he had lived 
and thought; his mind had a framework. 
Had he ever felt a difficulty, he would have 
been ready, no doubt, with the answer of the 
schools. But he was governed by heart and 
imagination no less than Laura. A service- 
able intelligence had been used simply to 
strengthen|the claims of feeling and faith. 
Such as it was, however, it knew itself. 
It was at command. 

" But Laura ! Laura was the pure pro- 
duct of an environment. She represented 
forces of intelligence, of analysis, of criticism, 
70 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

of which in themselves she knew little or 
nothing, except so far as they affected all her 
modes of feeling. She felt as she had been 
born to feel, as she had been trained to feel. 
But when in this new conflict a conflict of 
instincts, of the deepest tendencies of two 
natures she tried to lay hold upon the 
rational life, to help herself by it, and from 
it, it failed her everywhere. She had no 
tools, no weapons. The Catholic argument 
scandalised, exasperated her ; but she could 
not meet it. And the personal prestige and 
fascination of her lover did but increase 
with her, as her feeling grew more troubled 
and excited, and her intellectual defence 
weaker. 

" Meanwhile to the force of temperament 
there was daily added the force of a number 
of childish prejudices and dislikes. She had 
come to Bannisdale prepared to hate all 
she saw there ; and with the one supreme 
exception, hatred had grown at command. 
She was a creature of excess; of poignant 
and indelible impressions. The nuns, with 
their unintelligible virtues, and their very 
obvious bigotries and littlenesses; the sly- 
ness and absurdities of Father Bowles ; the 
priestly claims of Father Leadham ; the 

71 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



various superstitions and peculiarities of 
the many priests and religious who had 
passed through the house since she knew it 
alas ! she hated them all ! and did not 
know how she was to help hating them in the 
future. These Catholic figures were to her 
so many disagreeable automata, moved by 
springs she could not possibly conceive, and 
doing perpetually the most futile and foolish 
things. She knew, moreover, by a sure in- 
stinct, that she had been unwelcome to them 
from the first moment of her appearance, 
and that she was now a stumbling-block and 
a grievance to them all. 

" Was she by submission to give these 
people, so to speak, a right to meddle and 
dabble in her heart ? Was she to be wept 
over by Sister Angela to confess her sins 
to Father Bowles still worse, to Father 
Leadham ? As she asked herself the ques- 
tion, she shrank in sudden passion from the 
whole world of ideas concerned from all 
those stifling notions of sin, penance, absolu- 
tion, direction, as they were conventionalised 
in Catholic practice, and chattered about by 
stupid and mindless people. In defiance of 
them, her whole nature stood like a charged 
weapon, ready to strike. 
72 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

" For she had been bred in that strong sense 
of personal dignity which in all ages has been 
the alternative to the abasements and 
humiliations of religion. And with that 
sense of dignity went reserve the intimate 
conviction that no feeling which is talked 
about, which can be observed and handled 
and measured by other people, is worth a 
rush. It was what seemed to her the 
spiritual intrusiveness of Catholicism, its 
perpetual uncovering of the soul -its dis- 
respect for the secrets of personality its 
humiliation of the will that made it most 
odious in the eyes of this daughter of a 
modern world, which finds in the develop- 
ment and ennobling of our human life its 
most characteristic faith. 

" There were many moments indeed in 
which the whole Catholic system appeared 
to Jjaura's strained imagination as one vast 
chasse an assemblage of hunters and their 
toils against which the poor human spirit 
that was their quarry must somehow protect 
itself, with every possible wile or violence. 

" So that neither submission, nor a mere 

light tolerance and forgetting, were possible. 

Other girls, it seemed, married Catholics and 

made nothing of it agreed pleasantly to 

73 



MBS HUMPHRY WARD 



differ all their lives. Her heart cried out ! 
There could be no likeness between these 
Catholic husbands and Alan Helbeck. 

" In the first days of their engagement she 
had often said to herself : ' I need have 
nothing to do with it ! ' or ' Some things are 
so lovely ! I will only think of them. 5 In 
those hours beside the sea it had been so 
easy to be tolerant and kind. Helbeck was 
hers from morning till night. And she, so 
much younger, so weak and small and 
ignorant, had seemed to hold his life, with 
all its unexplored depths and strengths, in 
her hand. 

" And now ! 

" She threw herself down on a rock that 
jutted from the wet grass, and gave herself 
up to the jealous pain that possessed her. 

" A few more days and Mr Williams would 
be - gone. There was some relief in that 
thought. That strange scene in the drawing- 
room deep as all concerned had buried it 
in oblivious silence had naturally made his 
whole visit an offence to her. In her 
passionate way she felt herself degraded by 
his very presence in the house. His eyes 
constantly dropt, especially in her presence 
74 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

and Augustina's, his evident cold shrinking 
from the company of women she thought 
of them with disgust and anger. For she 
said to herself that now she understood what 
they meant. 

" Of late she had been constantly busy 
with the books that stood to the right of 
Helbeck's table. She could not keep herself 
away from them, although the signs of 
tender and familiar use they bore were as 
thorns in her sore sense. Even his books 
were better friends to him than she ! And 
especially had she been dipping into those 
Lives of the Saints that Helbeck read habitu- 
ally day by day ; of which he talked to young 
Williams with a minuteness of knowledge 
that he scarcely possessed on any other 
subject knowledge that appeared in all the 
details of the chapel painting. And on one 
occasion, as she turned over the small, worn 
volumes of his Alban Butler, she had come 
upon a certain passage in the life of St 
Charles Borromeo : 

" c Out of a most scrupulous love of purity 
. . . neither would he speak to any woman, 
not even to his pious aunt, or sisters, or any 
nun, but in sight of at least two persons, and 
in as few words as possible.' 
75 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



' The girl flung it down. Surrounded as 
she often was by priests affronted by those 
downcast eyes of the scholastic the passage 
came upon her as an insult." 

If one places Helbeck at the head of Mrs 
Ward's achievements, it must be allowed 
that Eleanor, which followed it (again, at an 
interval of two years), is equal to it in 
technical accomplishment, in completeness 
of design, and in the quality which most 
matters sympathetic interpretation of the 
human heart. It is inferior, for reasons 
inseparable from the subject chosen. The 
design, though equally complete, is far less 
happy. Both books have their origin in that 
" far-reaching stir and rumination " whose 
first output was the Oxford pamphlet. In 
both the emotions of man and woman in their 
sex-relation are connected with the play and 
counterplay of forces at work in the religious 
world. But in Helbeck the connection is 
direct and causal: Helbeck and Laura's 
love comes to inevitable ruin because in him 
the devotion to religious authority is no less 
76 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

instinctive than her allegiance to freedom 
of the mind. In Eleanor the central male 
figure, Manisty, is a student of religious 
phenomena ; he is the upholder of religious 
authority, not for the sake of religion, but 
of authority; because he sees it bound up 
with tradition, indispensable to civilised 
society. Essentially he is irreligious; and 
Eleanor is associated with him in his work, 
not for the sake of the work, but for the 
association. The story would have stood 
almost as well if Manisty had been writing 
directly and primarily on politics for 
instance, on the principle of nationality. 
But at the close religion enters directly as 
an element: it provides the solution. 
Casually, through her association with 
Manisty, Eleanor has been brought into 
touch with the Modernist priest, Father 
Benecke : when she and her unwilling rival, 
Lucy, fly to concealment, they find them- 
selves sharing the retreat of the unfrocked 
priest ; and it is to the martyr of freedom 
that Eleanor is drawn by the instinct for 
confession: it is he who points to her the 
77 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



Christian solution the way of renunciation. 
All this is well combined, ingenious and 
picturesque ; it is only to be regretted that 
Mrs Ward should have marred the dignity 
of her invention when she makes Father 
Benecke vitiate the spirit of the confessional 
by interfering so as to bring Manisty on the 
scene. Yet at best the plot is a grouping of 
accidents. In Helbeck the whole situation 
has a commanding simplicity though the 
inevitable end is reached by subtle com- 
plications of the path. 

It is a minor matter that Mrs Ward 
throughout holds our sympathy for Helbeck 
and never for an instant secures it for 
Manisty. This means that the book is 
necessarily less likeable : it need not for that 
be less deserving praise. But what is 
vitally important is the relation of its char- 
acters to their background. The whole 
scene passes in Italy: it deals with the 
adventures almost of tourists privileged, 
highly educated tourists who know Italian 
and Italians, but folk for whom Italian life of 
to-day, Italy of to-day, with its vines and 
78 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

olives overgrowing the ruins of Rome, make 
up a spectacle. In Helbeck, setting and actor 
are one : the scene has value only in relation 
to the actors. In Eleanor there is a tendency 
to describe for the sake of description which 
Mrs Ward does not wholly resist. The story 
of David Grieve' s experiences in France had 
too much suggestion of the enlightened guide- 
book ; here, in a less degree, but still per- 
ceptible, there is the same suggestion. A 
writer like Prosper Me rime e or even, in his 
best work, the late Mr Marion Crawford 
describes, as it were, accidentally. Mrs Ward 
makes you feel the scene through the eyes 
of people standing apart from it, admiring 
its beauty and its strangeness. Not so does 
she describe Whindale, or Bannisdale, or any 
other fell or scaur. 

Those who wish to read a description of 
Italy as it strikes an extremely cultivated, 
even learned, Englishwoman, with a keen 
sense for beauty, will read Eleanor with 
interest: so will those who desire well- 
considered views on the relations of Church 
and State in Italy set out in an agreeable 
79 



MKS HUMPHKY WAED 



dramatic form. But these things are too 
detachable from the main and real subject, 
which is a very powerful and subtle study 
of jealousy in its least dishonouring form, 
and uncomplicated by the marital sense of 
ownership. 

Eleanor is the woman of thirty, with a 
disastrous marriage behind her, exquisitely 
cultivated, full of grace and charm, socially 
well placed but hungry with the need for 
personal devotion. She finds life flowering 
afresh, her shattered nerves growing into a 
harmony, because the chance has offered of 
helping her kinsman, Manisty, in the epoch- 
making book which he has left politics to 
write. This brilliant person is admittedly 
an unmitigated egoist ; but Mrs Ward, after 
her fashion, conveys the effect of his brilli- 
ancy by dexterous description. Just as in 
Robert Elsmere we had much about the old 
Squire's destructive talk and his biting 
epigrams, but were not given the epigrams 
to look at, so here also Mrs Ward tells us 
how Manisty talked ; she does not make 
him say his best things. It is a defect in 
80 



HELBECK AND ELEANOR 

her method, and we have to take Manisty, 
like the Squire, on faith; Tmt what she 
renders, and inimitably, is the quality of 
Eleanor's feeling for Manisty that mixture 
of pride and protecting tenderness which a 
delightful woman will sometimes display 
towards an unbearable man. It is largely 
for his sake to propitiate his ill-humour 
that she lays herself out to make a crude 
American girl attractive when the household 
is saddled with this, to Manisty, most un- 
desired visitor. It might be said that Mrs 
Ward conveys more successfully Lucy's 
crudeness than Lucy's beauty ; but this, at 
any rate, is clear, that without Eleanor's 
good-natured intervention, Lucy would 
never have become tolerable to Manisty. 
Eleanor is the architect of her own ruin. 
Once, however, we have got to the point- 
where the elder woman perceives what is 
happening, criticism has no more to say ; 
all the painting is excellent. Mrs Ward 
does not spare Eleanor; she shows her in 
the pettiness, the humiliation, of her passion ; 
and she gives very fine relief to the girl's 

F 81 



MES HUMPHRY WARD 



response when appeal is made to her by the 
vanquished. Lucy's anger with Manisty for 
his ingratitude, even when she can scarcely 
suppress the exultation of her own heart, 
is a subtle and true study. Let us hope 
that in the long run, like a true daughter 
of America, she made him black her boots. 
As for Eleanor, it was her nature to do 
things for other people ; she transgressed 
it in desiring and striving to hold something 
for herself; and she fulfils the law of her 
being by bringing the other two together, 
and ther dying quietly and unobtrusively 
in a delicate atmosphere of refined peace. 
But Mrs Ward's sense of poetic justice guides 
her rightly in making the nice young attache 
propose to marry Eleanor when Death had 
already set his mark on her. She de- 
served that supreme compliment, and it 
re-establishes the balance of the design. 



82 



NOVELS WITH A HISTORICAL BASIS 

AFTER she had written Eleanor, 
Mrs Ward let the religious theme 
alone for ten full years. The 
next three novels have the common char- 
acteristic of being based upon, some well- 
known piece of social or political history. 
All who had read Sainte Beuve's study of 
Mademoiselle de 1'Espinasse must have 
recognised the genesis of the central incident 
in Lady Rose's Daughter. What Julie de 
PEspinasse was to Madame du Defend, 
Julie le Breton (the choice of name is in itself 
an acknowledgment) was to Lady Henry; 
and just as Madame du Deffand, " counting 
every visitor to her salon as so much private 
property," descended one afternoon pre- 
maturely to find her most valued circle 
"'gathered surreptitiously round the lady 
who passed as her paid companion, and was 

83 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



in truth the illegitimate half-sister of her 
brother's wife," so the autocrat of Bruton 
Street, roused by indiscreet voices, appeared 
a formidable spectre at the door of a 
room where Julie le Breton was entertaining 
the personages who had called to inquire 
after Lady Henry's health. These person- 
ages are characterised in a manner which 
would naturally suggest to the London world 
sketches of well-known folk. All this part 
of the book the description of Lady Henry's 
salon, of Julie's personality, of her friends, 
of the relations between her and her em- 
ployer is brilliantly done; but after the 
rupture, when Julie sets up house for herself 
and the interest shifts to her tragic love story 
and eventual decline into a duchess-ship, the 
whole thing lags and flags. Mrs Ward 
herself says the end should have been 
tragedy, and she is right. Lady Henry's 
brief reappearance at the end makes us feel 
how pasteboard are the other figures ; that 
grim potentate brings life whenever she 
enters, and the breath of battle. 

The Marriage of William A she also 
84 



NOVELS WITH A HISTORICAL BASIS 

" took the outlines of another story, or 
rather the situation from which it sprang, 
and invoked, so to speak, a set of modern 
players, to play it out again, in modern 
fashion and under contemporary conditions. " 
But this time the story was by far better 
known, for it was a part of Byron's career, 
and, to that extent, Mrs Ward had greater 
difficulties to contend with. None the less 
she succeeded very much better. Lady 
Kitty, who modernises the part of Lady 
Caroline Lamb, is really created; she has 
" the lightness, the fantasy," which her 
author sought to convey. This elfish 
creature, so small, yet so violent, with an 
uncanny, insane passion of will " made up 
on wires," as an enemy describes her has 
none the less a dazzling magic, of youth and 
of something more a double dose of life. 
Geoffrey Cliffe, who is cast for the part of 
Byron, has Byron's meanness, but very little 
of his stormy grandeur: but to remake a 
Byron, a Bismarck, a Shelley, a Napoleon, is 
an achievement past praying for. As well 
put Othello or Falstaff into the pages of a 
85 



MBS HUMPHRY WAED 



modern book : these creations were stamped 
once and for all on the common conscious- 
ness. Mrs Ward, to do her justice, has seen 
this. She allots to her Cliffe a secondary 
role: the strength of her design is given 
to representing Lady Caroline's husband, 
Lord Melbourne, in his youth. Here again 
she has succeeded beyond her usual measure. 
The William Lamb of reality has well in- 
spired her study of the English aristocrat, 
good-humoured, indifferent, yet born to 
power and attracted by power and at the 
same time possessing enough originality to 
win and be won by the bewitching goddess 
whose apparition at a great ball is among 
the things which Mrs Ward has really made 
us see. Lady Kitty's tempestuous pre- 
parations for the robing of herself as an 
eighteenth-century Diana and her final 
triumph in that guise leave a sharp outline 
on memory. 

Incidentally Mrs Ward* has chosen to 

sketch, with some definiteness, a social phase 

of the nineties : she fixes it to a date by a 

thumb-nail sketch of Mr Gladstone in old 

86 



NOVELS WITH A HISTORICAL BASIS 

age. Thus her book is a roman more or less 
a clef in relation to contemporary life as well 
as to past history, though without any trace 
of the indiscretion which beset her heroine, 
and the heroine's original. 

It is a defect in Mrs Ward's story that she 
makes Lady Kitty's final plunge or trans- 
gression the result of an arbitrary and exter- 
nal happening. When she is on her way to 
rejoin her husband, Clifie is guided to pursue 
her; but for the treachery of an angry 
woman, Lady Kitty, we are asked to believe, 
would never have gone beyond indiscretion. 
This is a touch of melodrama and of bad 
invention ; but so little reliance is placed on 
it that the defect does not really signify. 
In the next book a similar introduction of 
mechanical plots ruins the value of the whole 
work, for the whole story hinges on it. 
Fenwick's Career is suggested by the case of 
George Romney, who left his wife to come 
to London and seek his fortune, but never 
returned to her or brought her to him, 
and fell in love, as the story goes, with the 
most beautiful of his sitters, Lady Hamilton. 
87 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



This theme Mrs Ward waters down. Fen wick 
comes up, and is led to conceal his marriage 
to the extent of not avowing it. His wife 
learns this, is jealous, comes to London, 
finds the studio empty because Fen wick, 
having just sold his first important picture, 
has gone out to make purchases which shall 
compensate her for her waiting. Conspicu- 
ous on the easel is a portrait of the sitter 
whom already Phoebe Fenwick has come to 
suspect as her supplanter. She destroys the 
canvas, leaves an angry letter and her 
wedding-ring, and vanishes out of Fen wick's 
life. Things, after all, do not happen like 
that ; the plot is incredible. Indeed, the 
novel does not at any part show Mrs Ward 
to advantage, though it displays her famili- 
arity with the world of painters and their 
patrons, with the talk of artists and of 
critics, and instructs her readers in the 
general artistic movements and tendencies 
which have made themselves felt since Millais 
and Burne-Jones grew old-fashioned, and 
even Whistler a trifle out of date. There 
is also much description of Versailles, careful 
88 



NOVELS WITH A HISTOKICAL BASIS 

but somewhat redundant. The truth is that 
a story about artists or about literary 
people is seldom fully alive : it becomes 
infected with an atmosphere of technicalities, 
which lacks interest for the general reader, 
and to the expert appeals rather as a dis- 
cussion of ideas than as a presentment of 
life. 

These objections do not apply to the use 
of a political background for the warp on 
which to weave the pattern of a story. 
Politics are less technical, less esoteric ; they 
are, in a sense, everybody's business ; and 
though they most certainly have their 
" shop," novelists have, as a rule, contrived 
sufficiently to avoid it. In the book which 
followed Fenwick's Career Mrs Ward drew 
with excellent result on this field of interest. 
Diana Mallory is certainly not a great novel, 
but it is a very good one. The story is 
original and well planned, and several of 
the personages are really alive. More- 
over, though a novel of political life, it is 
without the propagandist note ; it uses a 
politician's career simply as the material 
89 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



for an artist. Of course views and opinions 
are felt behind the telling, but they are not 
obtruded. Oliver" Markham is a young and 
rising Member of Parliament on the Radical 
side ; he commands great wealth, because 
his father's huge fortune has been left entirely 
to his mother, and Lady Lucy Markham 
does everything she can to advance his son's 
fortunes and to forward his ideas. Conse- 
quently, when Markham falls in love with 
Diana, the beautiful girl who had taken an 
old place near his own, all goes well. Diana, 
it is true, is a natural-born Tory and Im- 
perialist. She has been brought up entirely 
abroad by her father, a traveller and a 
student, with the cult of empire strong in 
him; and knowing England only at a dis- 
tance, she adores it the more. But the very 
encounter in which she contends brilliantly 
against the trained and able parliamentarian 
reveals to each the other's charm ; and Lady 
Lucy Markham, though she is a Liberal by 
tradition, and also by affection, because 
Ferrier, one of the Liberal leaders, has made 
her his Egeria, sees no reason not to welcome 
90 



NOVELS WITH A HISTOKICAL BASIS 

her son's choice. But on the very day of. 
Markham's declaration the ominous mystery 
of Diana's parentage, which has been skil- 
fully suggested, suddenly breaks. She is 
the child of a woman who was sentenced to 
death for murder, with fraud thrown in 
the tragic heroine and victim in a case which 
had resounded over Europe and America. 
Upon this announcement Markham is a little 
dashed ; he perceives that such a marriage 
has danger for a political career ; but he de- 
termines to hold fast, and is backed strenu- 
ously by one of his friends, the great lawyer 
who defended the accused woman, and never 
departed from his belief that she had been 
guilty of no more than a gambler's madness 
and a chance blow struck in self-defence. 
Mrs Ward, it is to be seen, does not go to all 
lengths in her scheme; the charming girl 
is not the child of a hateful criminal ; and, 
after all, this is common sense, because 
hateful criminals do not have charming 
children. In short, the circumstances are 
such that Markham could have stuck to his 
choice without political disadvantage, perhaps 
91 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



gained even the prestige of a chivalrous 
adventure. But he has more to face. Lady 
Lucy will have none of the marriage ; she 
has the power to deprive him absolutely 
of money, and she declares her intention 
to do so in the name of Christianity and 
respectability and the purity of the home. 
Very deep in Mrs Ward's heart lies the con- 
viction that women are not to be trusted 
with power ; that they will take no account 
of other people in their use of it; that it 
spoils them for their proper uses. Here the 
conviction is only suggested ; elsewhere, as 
shall be seen, it is heavily underlined. At 
all events, Markham, unable to face the 
sacrifice of thirty thousand a year and prob- 
able retirement from Parliament, allows 
Diana to release him. Politically, the 
manoeuvre does not pay ; public sympathy 
goes to Diana ; and Markham, going from 
one meanness to another, commits an act 
of treachery to Ferrier, his friend and 
political chief, which completes his own over- 
throw. All the construction of this intrigue 
is thoroughly well planned, the sequence 
92 



NOVELS WITH A HISTOKICAL BASIS 

from action to action is clear, yet not obvious ; 
and finally Nemesis overtakes the intriguer 
in the appropriate form of an electioneering 
missile which damages his spine. Diana is 
then allowed to come to the rescue, morally 
and physically, of the disgraced and de- 
feated man who still sums up for her all that 
she wants of the world. 

Diana is really admirable. She has spirit, 
fire, breeding and dignity; she has some- 
thing of the airy grace which Mrs Ward 
contrives to give to such different personages 
as Eleanor and Lady Kitty ; and here the 
novelist has managed to convey to the full 
a suggestion of beauty, and of a girl very 
passionately in love. Where she has failed 
absolutely and the failure is characteristic 
is the picture set against Diana, that of 
Alicia Drake, Markham's cousin, who catches 
him on the rebound from Diana, and drops 
him again when he is damaged. Alicia is 
meant to be the unscrupulous woman who 
makes an appeal to sense ; but she is merely 
a lay figure. On the other hand, Fanny 
Merton, Diana's vulgar and disgusting little 
93 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



cousin, the mean agent of Fate who brings 
Diana face to face with her own history, is 
vividly drawn, though this is no great 
achievement. But Mrs Ward has attempted 
something very difficult in her study of 
Ferrier, the famous politician, and of his 
friend, Sir James Chide, the great advocate. 
In both these cases notable figures in real 
life suggest themselves for comparison, and 
Mrs Ward has gone out of her way to indicate 
that in drawing the lawyer she had Lord 
Russell of Killowen in her mind. This may 
have been simply as a way of pointing 
memory to the celebrated Maybrick case, for 
Sir James Chide bears no resemblance to the 
Irish lawyer who was so long the terror and 
the glory of the Bar. Both Chide and 
Ferrier have dignity and weight of person- 
ality. Over and above these should be noted 
an excellent figure, the sharp-tongued old 
Lady Niton, who is seen in the light of 
laughter, and whose conversation, as given 
in the book, is for once not unequal to the 
description of its effects. 

Here again, it should also be observed, we 

94 



NOVELS WITH A HISTORICAL BASIS 

find Mrs Ward's characteristic feeling for 
houses as an external expression of person- 
ality. The charm which Beechcote has for 
Diana, and the charm she imparts to it 
the effect of Markham's house and the bad 
taste it expresses these are meant to be 
felt, and indeed are felt, throughout the whole 
story almost as living human influences. 

Houses and furnishing also play a great 
part in the next novel, Daphne, which is, in 
truth, not a novel at all, but a pamphlet a 
strident pamphlet against the institution of 
divorce, at least as it obtains in America. 
Here for once Mrs Ward loses her judicial 
temper ; she gives the opposition no sort of 
fair play ; and it cannot be said that the 
book has in any sense much value. But 
it is worth while to emphasise once again 
Mrs Ward's sense of the danger which power 
brings to women. Daphne, the millionaire 
in her own right, feels that she has a special 
claim against her impecunious husband; 
and, Mrs Ward suggests, American law adds 
to the dangers of power by the facility which 
it gives for money to have its own way. 
95 



MKS HUMPHRY WAKD 



In her Preface to the Westmoreland 
Edition of this book Mrs Ward apologises 
to Americans for a novel written after a 
visit to their country, and expressing on 
the whole a condemnation in spite of 
the chapters which celebrate Washington 
and the hero who gave the capital his name. 
She appeals to the portrait of Lucy Foster in 
Eleanor for a true presentment of her feeling 
to the kindred race in the New World. Yet 
what she admires in Lucy is precisely the 
old-world America old-world even in its 
independence. Daphne is the American 
Europeanised, a figure much more up to 
date than Lucy. One has to turn to another 
book for Mrs Ward's recognition of the 
glory of newness, the vast unbroken forces 
which America's continent is throwing into 
the balance of our modern world ; and it is 
not with the United States that she associ- 
ates her picture of them, but with Canada. 

Yet Canadian Born, published in 1910, 

cannot be numbered amongst her successes. 

Mrs Ward having made a tour through 

Canada as a traveller with rather too many 

96 



NOVELS WITH A HISTOEICAL BASIS 

facilities and advantages grouped her im- 
pressions of travel about a loose thread of 
story : it was a fashion of writing that the 
late William Black used with unfailing 
charm. But in Mrs Ward's book, through all 
the keen pleasure and interest in what she 
has seen, one detects the voice of the publicist 
formulating views. A little thing would 
change many of the scenes, many of the 
dialogues, into excellent leading articles. 



VI 
THE CASE OF RICHARD MEYNELL 

MES WAED'S dramatic tracts on 
divorce, even her excursions into 
the field of Imperial politics, are, 
in a certain sense, superficial: they bring 
us into touch only with the surface of the 
writer's mind. In The Case of Richard 
Meynell she returned to that deeper pre- 
possession which has never left her since 
it inspired her first achievement. It has 
been seen how Robert Elsmere owed its birth 
to a movement of revolt revolt against 
a Bampton Lecture ! and how that revolt 
sought its utterance in a pamphlet, and how 
years later the pamphlet ripened into a 
novel, which put the thesis of the pamphlet 
as a concrete human case. If Kobert 
Elsmere disbelieved, was it only (as the 
Bampton lecturer would suggest) through 
spiritual pride or some other unchristian 
98 



RICHARD MET NELL 



quality ? That is the question which the 
book was written to answer. But beside it 
ran the other question: Are the things 
which Elsmere cannot believe things essential 
to Christianity ? Now, after twenty years, 
Mrs Ward returns to these problems, and it 
is apparent that in her view the first question 
no longer needs to be put. No one, she 
would say, disputes that persons in the 
Christian community living good and even 
exemplary lives hold views as difficult to 
reconcile with the letter of the Creed as are 
the tenets of an extreme ritualist with the x 
Thirty-Nine Articles. Her question now 
frames itself rather in this form: Has the 
Christian a right to assert views which 
involve wide modification of Christianity's 
intellectual framework ? Obviously this is 
an inquiry by far more polemical. In 
Robert Elsmere her task was simply to show 
that a good man might in all honour and 
sincerity, and against every pull of his 
nature, feel himself driven to conclusions at 
variance with those of his Church. The 
problem raised by Richard Meynell is less 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



human: and in answering her question 
Mrs Ward must assume the role of a 
prophetess, picturing in advance not a 
secession but a struggle within the Church 
of England. 

That forecast will interest all who care for 
such matters; but as a novel the book 
suffers by lack of any contest within the 
hero's mind : there is no essential drama. 
Mrs Ward tries to meet this lack by inventing 
a plot, to me wholly incredible, which forces 
upon Meynell a certain choice arising out 
of extraneous happenings. The struggle in 
Elsmere's case is inevitable, inseparable from 
his position ; but because a novel ought 
to have a plot, Meynell is grouped with a 
set of people each and all of whom have 
acted with criminal folly, and so force him 
to decide between his private honour and 
his public mission. Yet all this is, in reality, 
padding. What Mrs Ward has wanted to do 
in writing the book has been to project her- 
self into an imaginary contest of Modernist 
Anglicans against Anglican orthodoxy ; to 
invent the situations that might arise, the 
100 



RICHARD ME Y NELL 



weapons that might be used, and above all 
the sermons that might be preached. 

In Robert Elsmere Kobert's true antagonist 
is Catherine; in Helbeck the opposition 
between Laura and her lover makes the 
whole theme; but Meynell's fortunes and 
sympathies link him with Elsmere' s daughter, 
and she instinctively takes his side. His 
real opponent is the saintly old bishop who 
rejoices manfully when the arbitrary accident 
of a scandal is cleared out of the way and 
a clean fight is open. In other words, the 
plot of this book concerns Meynell's life 
and belief only by chance : in the other two 
novels Helbeck and Elsmere are carried 
inevitably forward to dramatic conflict by 
the facts of their own faith. 

All this is not to underrate the value which 
the book may have as eloquent, learned and 
feeling exposition of matters which deeply 
concern many serious minds. But in this 
case the form of the novel is used as a vehicle 
for exposition ; in the other two, exposition 
in some measure was exposition of the plot 
itself. Speaking critically, Richard Meynell 
101 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



adds nothing to Mrs Ward's literary reputa- 
tion. From a more general point of view, 
the book may be taken to indicate her con- 
viction that Robert Elsmere has borne fruit : 
that the controversy and the propaganda, 
which it helped notably to bring home to 
many minds, have resulted in a great ad- 
vance towards the conclusion which she 
desires; and that those who, like herself, 
crave for a Church which shall satisfy their 
instinct for tradition, for beauty, and for 
mystery, without repelling their intellectual 
convictions, are justified in hoping for a 
realisation of their desire. It does not con- 
sist with the purpose of this critical study to 
examine into these opinions. Note should 
simply be taken of the fact that Mrs Ward's 
hope rests to-day iu what is passing^ not so 
much within the Church of England as in 
a wider sphere, in the Modernist movement 
pervading a Catholicism which may become 
more catholic in ceasing to be Roman. 



102 



VII 

LATER NOVELS AND GENERAL 
APPRECIATION 



^ j ^HE Case of Richard Meynell was the 
/ last volume in the collected edition 
-* of Mrs Ward's works: but since 
then she has added considerably to her 
output. Not much importance need be 
attached to her Mating of Lydia, a novel 
hinging on the character (for which rumour 
suggests an original) of an old and in- 
famous landlord who shuts himself up with 
hoards of choice treasure, masterpieces of 
many arts. The subject lends itself to the 
erudition of Mrs Ward's connoisseurship : 
yet the result is a somewhat melodramatic 
and mediocre story, lit up at points by that 
odd quality of intermittent vision which has 
been already noted. The opening chapters 
that describe Melrose's appearance at his 
bleak northern home with his scared and 
103 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



bullied little Italian wife are vivid enough ; 
then the book flags, dealing with vaguely 
indicated persons, whose actions are described 
in a manner to suggest certain problems 
and difficulties when suddenly into the 
middle of them walks an astonishing crea- 
ture with a distinct life of her own, who might 
have dropped from the clouds, but who 
evidently and unmistakably is there and 
is alive. This is the miserly old tyrant's 
daughter, the cross-bred Italian girl, reared 
in poverty by strange shifts, big-eyed, help- 
less and pathetic as a hurt animal, and using 
her helplessness as a weapon with formidable 
tenacity. Undoubtedly some elf presented 
Mrs Ward with that vision ; she is the pro- 
duct of a genuine creative power not yet 
spent the same, power which in its earlier 
vigour created David Grieve' s sister. 

If, however, there were any question as 
to the durability of Mrs Ward's gift, her next 
story would have settled it. The Coryston 
Family is a telling study of contemporary 
England in those phases of it which specially 
interest her concerned with the classes in 
104 



LATEE NOVELS 



which power resides that is to say, the rich, 
hereditary landlords who have the taste for 
government, and the picked politicians who 
have forced their way inuo the privileged 
ring. Briefly, the work is a study in honest 
tyranny, and a study the more interesting 
because it is not dominated by any thesis 
except in so far as it reinforces the opinion 
that women ought not to have control over 
men. Lady Coryston, like Lady Lucy 
Markham in Diana Mallory, has been left 
with plenary powers over great revenues; 
but, unlike Lady Lucy, she has views of 
her own to advance. Her husband has been 
rather her mouthpiece than a politician in 
his own right, and she has now trained her 
favourite son and got him into Parliament 
at -a moment when political divisions have 
come almost to the pitch of civil strife in 
short, in the England of 1913. The story 
opens with a sketch of Lady Coryston in the 
Speaker's Gallery awaiting her son's maiden 
speech ; and the atmosphere of that queer, 
dim, railed-off side-chapel to St Stephen's 
(opening on it as if by a kind of leper's 
105 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



"squint") is cleverly rendered. But this 
is only a prelude to the brilliant scene which 
indicates the nodus of the story. Lady 
Coryston's eldest son, the holder of the title, 
has launched himself into the controversies 
of the moment on the extreme Socialist wing. 
She has summoned her children three sons 
and one daughter for a family council : 
and the council meets. Admirably done is 
the whole of this encounter. Lady Coryston 
proposes to settle the whole estate some 
seventy thousand a year upon her younger 
son, the Tory member, buying off Lord 
Coryston by an immediate gift equal to a 
tithe of what would have been his. Coryston 
refuses. It must be all or nothing. Either 
he will have all the property which would 
naturally have come to him, or none of it. 
But in either case he proposes to manage it ; 
he will settle on the estate and " try to 
drum a few sound ideas into the minds of 
our farmers and labourers." He will declare 
war, in short, not only on his mother's party 
in general, but upon his mother herself 
within her own kingdom. Lady Coryston 
106 



LATER NOVELS 



accepts the challenge, but she soon finds that 
the battle is to be more serious than she 
reckoned. Her agent her pearl of agents 
comes to her with the news that Lord 
Coryston has taken up, in Lady Coryston's 
own village, the quarrel of the Baptists, to 
whom she has refused ground for a chapel 
because their minister holds Radical opinions. 
Obviously this was a good stick for an 
agitator to get hold of, and the agent asks 
whether his employer adheres to her refusal. 
She, of course, is not to be intimidated. 

' The agent's mind let loose a thought 
to the effect that the increasing influence 
of women in politics did not seem likely 
to lead to peaceful living. His long ex- 
perience of Lady Coryston, able as she was, 
ar.d as he admitted her to be in many 
respects, had in the end only increased in 
him a secret contempt for women inbred in 
all but a minority of men. They seemed 
to him to have so little power of playing the 
game the old game of success that men 
understand so well : through compromise, 
cunning, give and take, shrewd and prudent 
dealing." 

107 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



The agent's view is not precisely that of 
Mrs Ward, but she appears to lean to the 
opinion that if women step outside their 
own sphere they do lack reasonableness and 
the power of adjustment which is another 
name for the art of compromise. Lady 
Coryston's troubles are only beginning when 
she quarrels with her eldest son. Her 
youngest, the promising Tory, has fallen in 
love with a daughter of the Philistines 
with a daughter, indeed, of the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer (so near does Mrs Ward 
go in her presentment of the situation) " the 
most vigorously hated and ardently followed 
man of the moment." Here, however, the 
resemblance stops : the Glenwilliam of the 
book does not in any degree resemble Mr 
Lloyd George. The daughter, his comrade 
and champion, is a personality in her own 
right ; and we are given to understand that 
one reason why Enid Glenwilliam wishes to 
have Arthur Coryston at her feet is because 
Lady Coryston has been publicly rude to her 
father. The approach of Nemesis is unsus- 
pected by its victim: Mrs Ward makes us 
108 



LATER NOVELS 



feel that Lady Coryston is too busy with 
political campaigning to keep in touch with 
the lesser fortunes of her own family. When 
her daughter becomes engaged she insists 
that the " marriage shall be over in good 
time to leave people free for the General 
Election ' ' ; and in all this there is no hint 
of caricature : Lady Coryston is perfectly 
credible the domineering woman whose will 
has flung itself into a particular activity at a 
moment of great crisis. But her daughter, 
used to one tyranny, begins to find herself 
menaced by another far moife intimate and 
formidable. Marcia's lover is the heir of 
rich and devout people, model landlords, 
who wish that their villages shall be 
model villages. The punishment for offence 
against the moral law is expulsion; and 
it appears that a chief servant of the New- 
burys has transgressed. He has married 
a divorced woman to devout Anglican 
Catholics no marriage at all. With perfect 
sincerity of conviction his employers, the 
lords territorial of the village, declare that 
to him also the law must apply. It matters 
109 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



nothing that his conscience as well as 
his heart justifies what he has done that 
the marriage has been an act, not only 
of love, but of wise Christian charity. 
The Newbury family will not consent to 
connive, however obscurely, at such a com- 
promise, or at such a recantation ; and 
Marcia, who, through the agency of her 
brother Coryston, is dragged into the affair, 
finds herself face to face (like Laura in 
HelbecJc) with a spiritual law to which she 
cannot reconcile her soul. She, too, like 
Laura, feels the fascination of her lover's 
absolute mystical faith, feels the desire to 
submit, but, again like Laura, cannot bring 
herself to it. Less tragically, no doubt, she 
too revolts against tyranny, the invasion of 
her conscience in its stronghold : and, with 
a fine touch of irony, Mrs Ward indicates 
that Lady Coryston does not disapprove her 
daughter's revolt. Tyranny of this sort, 
based on a mystical idea, offends the great 
lady's strong common-sense. Her own 
fight, which she wages by similar methods, is 
a political battle for the traditional rights 
110 



LATEK NOVELS 



and privileges of her own class. The crisis 
of the book comes when Lady Coryston is 
faced with her son Arthur's apostasy. Very 
characteristically her lifelong habit of 
domination brushes aside the young man's 
avowal of his desire to marry Glenwilliam's 
daughter ; she takes the matter into her 
own hands at once, and goes of! to interview 
the girl. 

The scene that follows is one of the best 
that Mrs Ward has ever written. Lady 
Coryston' s utter discomfiture predicted by 
her rebel eldest son does not deprive her of 
dignity ; and the lapse into a human con- 
fession of sorrow, which softens her opponent 
at the finish, is admirably put in. What 
finally weakens the fierce woman for she 
cannot bend is the angry revolt of her 
favourite, Arthur, who shows up "meanly in 
his anger : it is Coryston the rebel who has 
most understanding of his mother, and, in 
the end, most power to reconcile what is 
left of her to defeat. 

The study of this very curious and inter- 
esting masculine type makes one feel that 
ill 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



Mrs Ward has been thinking ; for the char- 
acterisation of Lord Coryston has insight as 
well as wit ; it recognises the value of the 

inborn Radical. 



" He was one of the mercurial men who 
exist to keep the human tide in movement. 
Their opinions matter principally because 
without them the opinions of other men 
would not exist. Their function is to pro- 
voke, and from the time he was a babe in 
the nursery Coryston had fulfilled it to per- 
fection." 

The opinions which Lord Coryston seeks 
to advance are hostile to the existence of 
landlord power. He is an enemy of despot- 
ism in all its forms whether the motive be 
a desire to enforce a Churchman's honest 
creed as to the marriage of divorced persons, 
or a purely political conservatism ; or again, 
the mere oppressive cruelty of a petty 
Liberal tradesman who exercises harshly his 
right of property to evict. One is almost 
inclined to believe that Mrs Ward is less 
convinced than before of the rights which 
112 



LATEE NOVELS 



property confers ; and at least it is certain 
that she regards the Lady Corystons of this 
world and their allies as defending a hopeless 
position. She anticipates, that is, defeat 
for the side which has most of her sympathies. 

" How much longer will this rich, leisurely 
and aristocratic class, with all its still sur- 
viving power and privilege, exist among us ? 
It is something that is obviously in process 
of transmutation and decay, though in a 
country like England the process will be a 
very slow one. Personally I greatly prefer 
this landlord stratum to the top stratum 
of the trading and manufacturing world. 
There are buried seeds in it, often of rare and 
splendid kinds, which only crisis brings to 
life, as in the Boer War. And the keen cult 
of family and inheritance implies, after all, 
something valuable in a world that has lately 
grown so poor in cults." 

So moralises one of the minor characters 
in this novel who is cast for the part of an 
intelligent looker-on. This forecast, taken 
in connection with the rest of the book, has 
an interest because it bears on the only 
113 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



occasion when Mrs Ward, so far as the world 
knows, took a definite part in politics. At 
the General Election of December, 1910, she 
published a pamphlet called Letters to My 
Neighbours on the Present Election, dealing 
with the main issue of that election the 
continuance or limitation of the powers and 
privileges possessed by the " rich, leisurely 
and aristocratic class." In supporting the 
continuance of these things she based her 
argument largely on the good which English 
landlords had done on the superiority of 
the " closed " village, belonging to a great 
landed estate, over the " open " village, 
where the houses belong to small owners. 
Incidentally the pamphlet reveals that as 
part of her studies for Marcella she read 
through the Agricultural Reports of the 
Grand Commission on Labour a fact very 
typical of her methods as a novelist. But 
the point to observe is that, whereasin 
Marcella and other books we have much 
about the evils that grow up under a bad 
landlord, here in The Coryston Family there 
is a strong suggestion of the tyranny which 
1H 



LATEE NOVELS 



may be exercised, from the most conscien- 
tious motives, on a well-managed estate. 

Partly, one may suppose that Mrs Ward, 
concerned to interpret the England of her 
day, has been confronted with the fact that 
the election of 1910 went strongly against 
her view : that there was no mistaking the 
widespread dislike in England for these 
hereditary powers. Asking herself the 
reason, she has found it in the action of bad 
landlords, condemned by their own class, 
such as she depicts again in The Mating of 
Lydia. But, with characteristic fairness, she 
sees that the objection goes farther, and so 
we have her recognition that such conscien- 
tious tyranny as the Newburys' is possible, 
and even probable. To this she links on a 
new proposition a thesis set out in terrorem 
which can be plainly traced to the working 
of her mind on a burning political question. 
Woman's agitation for political equality has 
brought Mrs Ward into the political arena as 
a speaker and writer strongly opposed to 
woman's political claim; and this novel 
points to a recognition by her of a want of 
115 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 

logic in the position of many women who 
oppose women's suffrage. Mrs Ward sees 
that politicians who encourage women to 
organise themselves for political purposes, 
whether in the Primrose League or in 
similar associations, cannot consistently 
resist the plea that women should be allowed 
to vote. The conclusion, very unmistakably 
put in The Coryston Family, is that her sex 
should keep out of politics altogether ; that 
they spoil themselves, and spoil political life, 
by deserting their true place. Coryston, the 
Radical, is made to say : 

" But the women oughtn't they to be in 
the shrine, tending the mystic fire ? What 
if the fire goes out if the heart of the 
nation dies ? " 

Lady Coryston loses touch with her 
children, loses their confidence and their 
affection, because she throws herself into 
the " dusty business " of politics, with a 
vehemence beyond that of men. Good men 
have often been tyrants at the bidding of a 
creed. Mrs Ward sets up Lady Coryston as 
116 



LATER NOVELS 



an awful example to show that, because 
" women are so unmeasured," they will act 
from a political creed as men have acted 
under the ardent stimulus of religion ; and 
that there will be more tyranny instead of 
less, and consequently more peril to the 
landlord class. 

It is unnecessary and it would be scarcely 
critical to pursue farther the review of Mrs 
Ward's writings. She has published several 
books since the war, and they do her no 
justice. One, Lady Connie, an affectionate 
attempt to revive the Oxford of her young 
life, is not better than Miss Br ether ton. The 
lack of concentration, natural in time of 
war with a novelist who is so much a citizen, 
has affected not only her creative power 
but her normal and very capable technique. 
Yet at her best her technique has never 
been more than competent. Her writing, 
good as it is, lacks personality. It would be 
hard to swear to a page of Mrs Ward. I do 
not know but the same holds of George Eliot 
the novelist whom she most resembles 
but the comparison is not fair. Everybody 
117 



MES HUMPHRY WARD 



knows that George Eliot had humour and 
had passion, superadded to the mental 
attainments which she shares with Mrs 
Ward. What discriminates her from Mrs 
Ward is what places her among the im- 
mortals. To try a more adequate com- 
parison, Mrs Oliphant too had humour, and 
also had charm ; yet I think that Mrs Ward's 
intellectual range, her real grip of struggles 
that involve the intellect, go far to compen- 
sate for her lack of those graces. And while 
Mrs Oliphant, poor soul ! wrote her fingers 
literally to the bone, pouring out copy with 
undiscriminating profusion, Mrs Ward has 
been the careful stewardess of her own 
talent ; she has evidently laboured to make 
each book complete to the utmost of her 
ability. She seems to have everything that 
can be acquired by study including the 
technical accomplishment of bringing 
singularly untractable matter into a story. 
I fear that the qualities which she lacks are 
qualities necessary to survival the salt of 
humour, the fire of passion, the personal 
charm of a style. 

118 



LATER NOVELS 



Yet in any review of our period in litera- 
ture Mrs Ward's name must always occupy 
considerable space. Future criticism will 
not overlook the fact that she almost alone 
of her contemporaries avoided dealing in the 
crudities of passion and won her popularity 
by a singularly austere appeal ; addressing 
herself not to the senses or the simpler feel- 
ings, but to those emotions which connect 
themselves with high and often abstract 
intellectual interests. There is no mistaking 
her honest and well-nourished public spirit, 
no ignoring her services as a good citizen. 
Yet, while a book like Beauchamp's Career 
braces the tone of those who read, and puts 
life into the ideals of good citizenship, 
Meredith makes these effects, as it were, 
unconsciously and by the mere contagion 
of his presence. He writes for the sake of 
embodying a number of characters working 
themselves out in mutual relations ; and his 
creative impulse is the artist's pure and 
simple. I am sure Mrs Ward enjoys writing 
her novels. But the pleasure which I feel 
in them and behind them is the publicist's 
119 



MES HUMPHKY WARD 



who has discovered a subtle device through 
which argument can be conducted under 
special forms. She fails, I think, in the last 
resort, not because she is too much of the 
good citizen, but because she is too little 
of an artist. She would sooner found an 
influential sect than write a supremely good 
book. This is a perfectly natural ambition, 
but one incompatible with the highest 
literary success. 



120 



A SHORT BIBLIOGRAPHY OF MRS 
HUMPHRY -WARD'S PRINCI- 
PAL WORKS 

[The date is given of the first edition of each book ; later 
editions and cheap reissues are not noted in this list.] 

Milly and Oily : a Holiday among the Mountains (Mac- 

millan). 1881. 

Miss Bretherton (Macmillan). 1884. 
Robert Elsmere (Smith, Elder). 3 vols. 1888. 
Address to mark the Opening of University Hall [Pamphlet] 

(Smith, Elder). 1891. 

The History of David Grieve (Smith, Elder). 3 vols. 1892. 
Unitarians and the Future : Essex Hall Lecture (Green). 

1894. 

Marcella (Smith, Elder). 3 vols. 1894. 
The Story of Bessie Costrell (Smith, Elder). 1895. 
Sir George Tressady (Smith, Elder). 1896. 
Helbeck of Bannisdale (Smith, Elder). 1898. 
Eleanor (Smith, Elder). 1900. 
Lady Rose's Daughter (Smith, Elder). 1903. 
.The Marriage of William Ashe (Smith, Elder). 1905. 
The Play-time of the Poor [Pamphlet] (Smith, Elder). 1906. 
Fenwick's Career (Smith, Elder). 1906. 
William Thomas Arnold, Journalist and Historian. By 

Mrs Humphry Ward and C. E. Montague (Manchester : 

University Press). 1907. 
Diana Mallory (Smith, Elder). 1908. 
Daphne ; or " Marriage a la Mode " (Cassell). 1909. 
Canadian Born (Smith, Elder). 1910. 

121 



MRS HUMPHRY WARD 



Letters to my Neighbour on the Present Election [Pamphlet] 

(Smith, Elder}. 1910. 

The Case of Richard Meynell (Smith, Elder}. 1911. 
The Mating of Lydia (Smith, Elder). 1913. 
The Coryston Family (Smith, Elder). 1913. 
Delia Blanchflower ( Ward, Lock). 1915. 
Eltham House (Cassell). 1915. 
A Great Success (Smith, Elder). 1916. 
England's Effort (Smith, Elder). 1916. 
Lady Connie (Smith, Elder}. 1916. 

COLLECTED EDITION 

Westmoreland Edition. The Writings of Mrs Humphry 
Ward, with introductions by the Author. Limited to 
250 copies (Smith, Elder). 1911-1912. 

1, 2. Robert Elsmere. 3, 4. The History of David Grieve. 
5, 6. Marcella. 7. Sir George Tressady. 8. Sir George 
Tressady (Conclusion) ; Miss Bretherton. 9. Helbeck of 
Bannisdale. 10. Eleanor. 11. Lady Rose's Daughter. 
12. The Marriage of William Ashe. 13. Fenwick's Career ; 
The Story of Bessie Costrell. 14. The Testing of Diana 
Mallory. 15. Daphne (Marriage a la Mode) ; Canadian Born 
(Lady Merton, Colonist). 16. The Case of Richard Meynell. 



122 



AMERICAN BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Milly and Oily : or a Holiday among the Mountains ( Mac- 
millari). 1881. Revised edition (Doubleday). 1907. 

Miss Bretherton (Macmillan). 1885. 

Robert Elsmere (Macmillan). 2 vols. 1888. 

University Hall Opening Address [Pamphlet] (Macmillari) 
1891. 

The History of David Grieve (Macmillan). 2 vols. 1892. 

Marcella (Macmillan). 2 vols. 1894. 

The Story of Bessie Costrell (Macmillan). 1895, 

Sir George Tressady (Macmillan). 2 vols. 1896. 

Helbeck of Bannisdale (Macmillan). 2 vols. 1898. 

New Forms of Christian Education : Address to the Uni- 
versity Hall Guild [Pamphlet] (Crowell). N.D. [1898]. 

Eleanor (Harper). 1900. 

Lady Rose's Daughter (Harper). 1903. 

The Marriage of William Ashe (Harper). 1905. 

Fenwick's Career (Harper). 1906. 

William Thomas Arnold, Journalist and Historian. By 
Mrs Humphry Ward and C. E. Montague (Harper). 
1907. 

The Testing of Diana Mallory (Harper). 1908. 

Marriage 4 la Mode (Doubleday). 1909. 

Lady Merton, Colonist (Doubleday). 1910. 

The Case of Richard Meynell (Doubleday). 1911. 

The Mating of Lydia (Doubleday). 1911. 

The Coryston Family. A Novel (Harper). 1913. 

Delia Blanchflower (Hearst). 1914. 

Eltham House (Hearst). 1915. 

A Great Success (Hearst). 1916. 

123 



MKS HUMPHRY WARD 



England's Effort (Scribners). 1916. 
Lady Connie (Hearst). 1916. 

The Westmoreland Edition of the Writings of Mrs 
Humphry Ward is published in America by Houghton 
Mifflin & Co. 



124 



INDEX 

Amiel's Journal Intime, 14 
Anderson, Mary, 17 
Arnold, T. K., 13, 34 
Arnold, Matthew, 13 
Arnold, Prof. T., 13 

Bennett, Arnold, 57 
Byron, 85 

Canadian Born, 18 

Case of Richard Meynell, The, 34, 98, 99, 101, 103 

Catholicism, 63, 64, 67 

Church of England, 102 

Crawford, Marion, 79 

Culture, 55 

Dales, the, 68 

Daphne, 95 

David Grieve, 66 

Davidson, Dr Randall, 32 

de I'Espinasse, Mademoiselle, 83 

Diana Mallory, 89 

Dictionary of Christian Biography, 24 

Dilke, Lady, 26 

Eleanor, 76, 79 

Eliot, George, 117, 118 

125 



MKS HUMPHRY WARD 



Faculty of Invention, 39 
Fenwictfs Career, 87, 89 
Forster, Arnold, 15 
Forster, W. E., 15 

General Election, 114 
Gladstone, W. E., 30, 86 
Green, T. H., 30 

Hamilton, Lady, 87 
Helbeck of Bannisdale, 61, 76 
History of David Grieve, The, 35 
Howells, W. D., 57 

Italy, 78, 79 
Jowett, B., 14 

Lady Connie, 117 

Lady Rose's Daughter, 83 

Lamb, Lady Caroline, 85 

Landlords, 113, 114 

Letters to My Neighbours on the Present Election, 114 

Liddon, Canon, 14 

Marcella, 42, 51 

Marriage of William Ashe, The, 84 

Mating of Lydia, The, 103, 115 

May brick Case, the, 94 

Melbourne, Lord, 86 

Meredith, G., 13 

Me'rim^e, Prosper, 79 

Miss Bretherton, 17, 19, 117 

Modernist Movement, 102 

126 



INDEX 



Nettleship, R. L. , 30 

Newman, 13 

New Reformation, The, 33 

Oliphant, Mrs, 118 
Oxford, 56, 117 

Pattison, Mark, 14, 26 
Pusey, Dr, 14 

Robert Elsmere, Chapter II. and pasaim 

Romney, George, 87 

Russell of Killowen, Lord, 94 

Stevenson, 13 

Story of Bessie Oostrell, The, 39 

Tolstoi, 59 

Tressady, Sir George, 38 

Trollope, 10, 12 

Unbelief and Sin, 29 

Wace, Dr, 24 
Westcott, 32, 33 
Westmoreland Edition, 24, 96 
Women's Suffrage, 116 
Wordsworth, 21, 27 

Yonge, Charlotte, 12 



127 



THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED, EDINBURGH 



PR Qwynn, Stephen Lucius 

5717 Mrs. Humphrey Ward 

G9 



PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE 
CARDS OR SLIPS FROM THIS POCKET 

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LIBRARY